International film festival directors now realize what movie lovers have known since the film Ratatouille made culinary fads of millions – thoughtfully made movies about the essence of cooking can deeply touch the hearts of viewers.
At this year’s Berlinale (Berlin) Film Festival an entire division was created to screen films solely about chefs, cuisine, ingredients and all matters culinary.
Though first shown from February 13th through the 18th, these remarkable films are now moving into distribution worldwide. Here are three of the films shown that are well worth seeing (and discussing) with staff:
This stunning film documents the art of the legendary sushi master Jiro Ono. David Gelb follows this 85 year old culinary star of Tokyo to his famed Sukiyabashi Jiro Restaurant, located in humble subway station. But size (and sometimes even location), does not a restaurant make. Jiro’s esteemed restaurant seats only ten yet it holds three Michelin stars. That’s enough to make any culinary professional want to see this movie.
Further expanding the plot is the stress and struggle experienced by his son Yoshikazu as the younger chef ponders his ability to continue his father’s quest for absolute culinary perfection.
If you are weary of staged ‘reality’ shows culinary or otherwise, you cannot help but be moved by this true life story of Charlie Arturaola, the world famous sommelier. Filmed in a mock documentary style, director Nicolas Carreras traces Arturaola’s struggle to reclaim not only his fading sense of taste but also his personal heritage.
For all those who have dedicated their lives to the profession they love, the film poses the fearful question: “What if suddenly you could no longer do what you Love?” The film suggests one response. Each member of the viewing audience will have to decide if their answer would be the same or different – in short, it’s a film that makes one think and re-think the purpose and value of our professional efforts.
Based on the autobiography of the same name by the English culinary writer Nigel Slater, this film is a coming-of-age story about a family in conflict where food becomes an expression of love and also a struggle for control. With a star rich cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter, Freddie Highmore and Ken Stott, the film counter balances the richness of food with a starvation of true affection often present in the homes of early 1960’s.
The script captures in heart-breaking clarity the struggle to be creative in an environment too narrow to reach a sense of authentic self. Anyone within the industry who has had to make the choice between the fate they were born to and the vocation that fascinates them, will understand this film and value its courage.
Post Note, November 2, 2011: The first ever Napa Valley Film Festival will be held for five days starting November 9th, featuring 75 films including Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Food, wine AND films - what an event! Be there if you can.
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2011