Food and films for thought
Berlin film festival sparks conversations about sustainability and food production over elegant cuisine.
Dinner and a movie was given a glamorous and ecoconscious twist at the 59th International Berlin Film Festival, with the special program "Culinary Cinema" earlier this month.Skip to next paragraph
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This sidebar program to one of the world's largest and most influential film festivals connected movies on culinary topics with dinners prepared by Michelin-star winning chefs. With a price tag of about $64 for a film and a three-course meal, it was certainly one of the best deals in sight.
Now in its third year, "Culinary Cinema" focused on issues of environmental responsibility and sustainable food production. The opening gala at the 1,895-seat Friedrichstadtpalast featured the European première of the documentary "Food, Inc." an exposé of America's highly mechanized food industry. With its images of cows standing knee-high in their own manure and chickens being clubbed to death, "Food, Inc." is hardly a film to whet the appetite.
The screening was followed by a discussion with the director Robert Kenner; Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation"; Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma"; and German food experts. Mexican actor Gael García Bernal rushed in fresh from the press conference for his new film "Mammoth" by Swedish director Lukas Moodysson (which screened in competition that evening) to discuss the rising prices of corn in Mexico that has led to a tortilla crisis in this part of the world.
During the panel, audience members had plenty of time to rid their minds of the film's disturbing content and images, and afterward they heartily munched on an organic vegetarian treat from Tim Raue, the celebrity chef at Berlin's famous Hotel Adlon Kempinski.
Raue's contribution was a richly spiced stew of pumpkin, carrot, and ginger, garnished with winter herbs. An endless stream of waiters dished out small bowls to the thousand-plus attendees; with many guests managing to snatch up seconds of the tangy treat as they wandered the theater's, elegant foyer, and hallways.
Subsequent evenings featured food-centric documentaries, features, and shorts that issued strong warnings about modern food production and advocated sustainability. The films were, at times, less than convincing. Jean-Paul Jaud's film "That Should Not Be – Our Children Will Accuse Us," about a mayor who decides that a school should adopt an organic diet in France, left much to be desired.