by Mary Nyiri
Natural Resistance (Italy 2013)
The business of wine making is just as complex as describing the meaning of terroir. Jonathan Nossiter, himself a trained sommelier, explored what terroir meant to the small, single estate wineries of France in his successful documentary film Mondovino (2004). He also looked at the impact of globalization and the emergence of the wine critic industry. Ten years later, in Natural Resistance Nossiter chronicles a grass roots movement of small wine growers in Italy who grow grapes without pesticides or other chemicals, making wine in a more natural way than industrialized wine producers.
Surrounded by huge vacation estates owned by the likes of Sting and Robert Zemeckis, wine growers, Giovanna Tiezzi and Stefano Borsa, grow grapes according to traditions that are reminiscent of their Etruscan heritage. Tiezzi took over the Pacina Chianti estate of her great grandparents and continues with traditional natural farming, bringing out the distinguished terroir. For Tiezzi and Borsa, along with other organic wine growers, their methods can create conflict with government controls that impact certain designations of wines. Other wine growers are interviewed on their fight for freedom from interference by such authorities. In a remarkable example of the difference natural farming can make, Stefano Bellotti, who has a vineyard in Piedmont, shows a handful of soil where his grapes are growing. The soil is a moist rich dark brown. Just across the dirt path he takes a sample of soil from where grapes are grown with fertilizers and chemicals. That soil is dry, crumbly and pale in comparison. Nossiter obviously admires and respects the small community of wine growers featured in this warm and provocative documentary of their struggles against industrialized farming.
A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story (Bushi no Kondate – Japan 2013)
Haru (Aya Ueto) is an exceptional cook who returns to work after her marriage of one year ends in divorce. She is singled out by famous Samurai chef Funaki when she easily identifies all the ingredients in a very special meal. The Funaki family is based on real life residents of the Kaga Domain who composed a recipe book which contains details of how foods were prepared in that region during the Edo Period (1603 – 1867). Each event in the film features meals eaten during that time.
Funaki is very impressed with Haru’s knowledge and skills in cooking, particularly her creativity with local ingredients. He begs Haru to marry his son Yasunobu (Kengo Kora) so that she can teach him to be a great Samurai chef. Yasunobu, however, wants to be a real Samurai and secretly participates in political resistance meetings while continuing his sword training. When his father becomes ill, Yasunobu reluctantly begins to learn from his wife eventually becoming a successful chef. Haru believes Yasunobu loves another woman so when she finds her teaching skills are no longer needed, she leaves him and finds work at a small beach restaurant. Yasunobu must decide for himself what kind of husband and Samurai he really wants to be. This film is a visual feast with spectacular costumes, sets and cooking sequences. Aya Ueto is enchanting as the rather impudent country cook. Definitely worth sampling!
Culinary Cinema shows documentaries, feature dramas and short films for just about any taste. Space is limited at the small theater in the Martin-Gropius-Bau building which also serves as the center of the European Film Market activities. Tickets for the 22:00 shows cost 9€.