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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Culinary Cinema (Kulinarisches Kino)



In 2006, the Berlinale Talents section hosted a workshop on the theme of Hunger, Food and Taste. The following year, the Culinary Cinema began and has continued to grow each year with films about food and movies followed by lavish meals created to compliment the topics. This year, tradition was a subject in the films. Thirteen films from eleven countries were featured, all except one of which were documentaries. Three of the documentaries are reviewed below.
An Omnivorous Family’s Dilemma (Jap-sik-go-gui-dil-le-ma)
Yun Hwang, South Korea  

Yun Hwang was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1972. She began her career as a documentary filmmaker with Farewell (2001) which looked at the life and death of wild animals in zoos. She married and had a son. Then in the winter of 2013, the news reported the culling of two million pigs due to an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease. Yun realized she had never seen a real live pig. So she started calling around industrial pig farms to find some to film. She found a farm where culling was taking place and through the fence filmed hundreds of live pigs, squealing in terror, being shoved into a huge hole with large tractors, apparently being buried alive. She became more determined to look into how pigs become pork in the grocery store. 

Finally a pig factory let her film inside. The conditions were appalling. Hundreds of huge pigs were individually confined to a space surrounded by bars which barely allowed enough space to lie down on the concrete. There the seemingly confused and fearful pigs were over fed, watered, artificially inseminated, gave birth, and eventually were slaughtered, never having left the pen. 

Yun also traveled to the mountains to see pigs raised on a traditional farm. There pigs are kept in large stalls filled with hay and they can run around the farm. The pigs look healthy with good coats, clear eyes and a curiosity about what is going on around them. Yun even takes her young son with her to visit the farm and together they feed and help take care of the pigs. They learn the pig names. But there it is not idyllic either. The male piglets are castrated without pain relief. During the castrations, the mother frantically tries to hide all of her babies in the hay while others are screaming during the procedure. One piglet dies from the procedure and the mother tries in vain to comfort him. 

Yun incorporates her very personal views on the treatment of pigs in part through discussions with her husband.  She becomes a vegetarian while her husband, who is a veterinarian, insists on eating pork. Capturing the family life of pigs on the free range farm and her own home life, Yun leaves the impression that pigs, too, enjoy life as a family. But reality hits home when as a parting gift, the farmer hands Yun several boxes of fresh pork. Watch the film, then decide for yourself what you want on your dinner plate.(MN)

Seeds of Time
Sandy McLeod, USA

Thought of as the Noah’s Ark of plants, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a vault buried 390 feet into the sandstone of the Artic Svalbard archipelago in Norway, about 810 miles away from the North Pole. The vault currently holds more than 830,000 seed varieties and counting. How this treasure chest of seeds came to be is the subject of a six year-in-the-making documentary directed by Sandy McLeod which features the crop crusader, Cary Fowler.

The subject of seeds could be very dry indeed but McLeod takes a grass roots approach by featuring communities impacted by climate change, such as in Peru. There the variety of potatoes has declined precipitously as global warming means potatoes grow only higher and higher up the Andes mountains, losing varieties that prefer lower elevations. Different indigenous communities overcame cultural differences to work together to create a potato park, where the many varieties are again grown. Many countries have seed banks or repositories but natural disasters have destroyed them, like a typhoon in the Philippines and flooding in Thailand. Iraq’s bank of ancient wheat, barley and other grains was looted during war. Fowler traverses the globe organizing the collection of seeds and raising awareness of the need to prepare for the catastrophic loss of crops, whether it is from a natural disaster like a meteor, climate change or man. The impact of genetically modified crops was not addressed in the film.

Back in 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the vault initiative with a $30 million grant plus $7.5 million from Norway. The project to build the vault and collect the seeds was undertaken by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the United Nations Foundation. You can take a virtual tour of the vault under www.croptrust.org. (MN)

Cooking Up a Tribute
Luis González, Andrea Gómez - Spain



Brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca run the three Michelin star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca on the outskirts of Girona, Spain.  Normally gourmets from around the world travel to Girona just to eat in their restaurant. However, the Roca brothers decided to leave Spain to explore new foods and traditions in Latin America and the U.S. and then with their new knowledge, they would create meals using ingredients unique to where they visited. Afterwards, the entire restaurant staff would travel across the Atlantic to prepare a dinner in several towns, closing down the restaurant for five weeks. This film documents their adventures in implementing their grand plan.

The Roca brothers take research trips through Mexico, Colombia, Peru and the U.S. state of Texas. Visits are made to small farms, plantations, distilleries and culinary schools. They meet with owners, chefs and critics. From restaurants Harry Sasson in Bogota, Astrid & Gaston in Lima, Biko in Mexico City, Casa Oaxaca in Oaxaca to the Gabriela Coffee Estate in the Andean Mountains, Josep samples what each has to offer. He learns how to drink mescal and eat live honey ants. Once the new foods, herbs and spices are passed on to the team back in Spain, they develop new recipes, like mescal candy. Then for the final segment of the film, the entire staff travels abroad to prepare the dishes that were created in their own kitchen. You can feel the passion the Roca brothers have for all things edible. Join in the celebration that eating a well-prepared meal can be when prepared by the Roca brothers. (MN)

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