Arts & Entertainment, Features

BU alumna’s documentary web series highlights multicultural dishes, stories

Ivana Strajin, a 2020 Boston University College of Communication alumna, longed for perhaps this year’s most relatable desire: connection.

“Homemade,” a seven-episode documentary series that features recipes from across the world. Boston University alumna Ivana Strajin created the series, which will be released Feb. 15. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Her solution doesn’t require travel, tickets or Zoom — all she needed was a recipe.

Every college student craves a homemade meal from time to time, and Strajin was no exception. Through learning to cook the Serbian food she grew up eating, she was reminded of dinners and quality time spent with her family as a child. She felt connected to her family, even though they were miles away.

That sense of comfort inspired Strajin to share the flavor with the world, editing, directing and producing her own “passion project.” Thus, the multicultural food documentary web series “HOMEMADE” was born, a program that highlights international recipes and the stories behind them.

Strajin’s love for her own food soon expanded into a love for others’, and the series allowed her to start telling people’s personal anecdotes and memories behind different dishes.

“Pretty much every single dish has some sort of story and traditions attached to it,” she said. “I wanted to try at least get a snapshot of some interesting home cooked, treasured family recipes and the stories that go along with them.”

The seven-episode series will premiere in the United States Feb. 15 on Amazon Prime, Strajin wrote in an email. Before its release, “HOMEMADE” was recognized as a 2020 Web Series Festival Global Semifinalist.

Each episode — which runs between six and 11 minutes long — features a new Canadian cook and their recipe, as well as the personal significance behind their meal. Strajin said “every single recipe is multi-generational,” which made creating the series all the more interesting.

The heritages represented include Turkish-Cypriot, Russian/Ukrainian, Canadian, Haitian, Mexican/Columbian, South Indian and Chinese, she said.

“We have a mix,” Strajin said. “Definitely not capturing everybody, but we’ve got a diverse group of home cooks.”

The filming began in the summer of 2019 but post-production was delayed as Strajin completed her master’s degree last year.

Strajin said the skills she learned through BU’s Media Ventures program was “incredibly helpful” for this project.

“It was very relevant to exactly what I’m doing, which is trying to bring a series to the market,” she said. “We learned all the different steps that are needed to be able to do that.”

One of the privileges of working on this project, Strajin said, was hearing about other people’s comfort food as well.

One cook, who was preparing rasam with okra fry and potato fry — a South Indian dish — recalled eating the meal with her family and the comfort tied to that cooking and eating ritual. Strajin said that message spoke to her, especially because she too is away from her home country.

“It was just really touching to hear her talk about how this was that comfort food, that comforting meal that she would have,” Strajin said. “She lives in Canada, away from the rest of her family in India, so it’s this simple dish that transports her back home.”

Jane Guan, the animator of the series, said the project was a first for the small film crew, but once they got into their creative groove, it turned into an exciting feat.

“For all of us, it was our first project,” Guan said. “Once we got running, it just became a bit like clockwork.”

Composer Marina Milenkovic said her favorite part of working on the documentary was the stories.

“It really celebrates food and diversity, and it follows home cooks and family recipes and personal stories,” Milenkovic said, “which is really my favorite part.”

Milenkovic said she tried to weave a musical theme throughout the documentary that would represent the series — the theme she chose represents the heart of what the show brings them all: cheer.

“We landed on the theme that is really bouncy and fun and light,” she said, “and when I think about the series, I really think about joy. There’s so much joy.”

To give you a little more of a taste here is the trailer.

UPDATE: “Homemade” will no longer be available on Amazon Prime. The series will now premiere on Dunn Vision Feb. 14.

CORRECTION: a previous edition of this article misstated that the heritages represented in the series included Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian instead of Turkish-Cypriot and Russian/Ukrainian. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.

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