Already in its 65th edition, the San Sebastian International Film Festival has been known for its special attention to food films - and it couldn’t be different in a city so devoted to the hedonistic pleasure of eating (from pintxos bars to many starred restaurants).
From 23 to 29 September 2017, the Culinary Zinema event gathered directors, producers and chefs around a food-focused programming. More than watching a movie, visitors could also experience a meal created by reputed chefs based on the stories and personalities portrayed by documentary filmmakers and great directors, such as the English filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Trip to Spain) and Basque chef Elena Arzak, from the eponymous restaurant that she runs in San Sebastian with her father, the legendary Juan Mari Arzak.
Among the selection, created in collaboration with the Berlin International Film Festival and jointly organized with the Basque Country Culinary Center, there were movies from nationalities as different as Japan, Israel and Germany. And even if all the chefs also work in Spain, their heritage ranges from Italy, Israel, Japan and even Argentina. Fine Dining Lovers watched the movies and joined the dinners and tells you how it was - and what you might expect about food films in a movie theater near you.
Michelin Stars – Tales from the Kitchen
The opening session was with the long awaited documentary Michelin Stars – Tales from the Kitchen, from the Danish filmaker Rasmus Dinese, where he intended to offer an in-depth and reflexive view of the day-to-day of Michelin-starred chefs and the meaning of being in the guide, “still today one of the most relevant to the gastronomic scene”, as Dinese said. The documentary brings testimonials from chefs such as Rene Redzepi, Martin Berasategui, Guy Savoy and 13 others who were awarded the guide stars. The special opening dinner brought together Michelin-awarded chefs Elena Arzak and Alain Weissgerber and the Colombian chef Kamilla Seidler, to the Basque Culinary Center, which was the stage for most of the dinners organized at Culinary Zinema.
The Cakemaker, a fiction movie shown on the second night, tells the story of a German pastry male chef who falls in love with a married Israeli man. After the sudden death of his beloved, the chef goes to Jerusalem in search for some answers. In the film, the pastries created by him are a metaphor (and also a counterpoint) to the relations that the director Ofir Raul Graizer evidences in his sensitive and well-conducted story. The dinner based on the movie took place in Ni Neu restaurant, with chefs Franco Emanuel Pinilla Alara and Tomas Kalika. “It was not easy to create the entire menu, since the movie is about pastry. So, Tomas Kalika and I decided to find inspiration in Jewish and Israeli cuisine, which is very little known in the Basque Country”, explained Alara.
Ramen Heads is a documentary that followed the best Japanese ramen chefs and their fans during 15 months to reveal in details every single step of the obssessive approach to create the perfect combination of soup and noodles. “If you are not a ramen head yourself, you can’t satisfy other ramen heads”, says Japanese chef Osamu Tomita, who became known as the ramen king in the food world and who is the main character of the film, directed by Koki Shigeno. “I don’t think there is another food that people are as crazy about as ramen”, he stated during the dinner promoted in the third night of Culinary Zinema, where he joined the also Japanese chef Eiko Goto. Besides other hot entries, the stars of the night were, of course, the ramen – three of them, prepared by the Japanese duo.
E Il Cibo Va (Food on the Go)
In the film E il cibo va / Food on the go, Argentinian producer and director Mercedes Córdoba reconstitutes the diaspora of millions of Italian immigrants in New York City and Buenos Aires (her birth city) to show how the Italian cuisine influenced the culinary in both cities - and even beyond. She recounts the stories of families who went to America between the 19th and 20th centuries and addresses the culinary recipes and traditions that have remained - and also the changes that traditions have undergone, one of the best points in the film, which ends up being very funny, in the best Italian way. “Talking about food with Italians is always deliciously polemic. Each one has its own version of a recipe, and won’t give in”, Córdoba said. During the Festival, To show how the recipes survived, the Madrilenian chef Andrea Tumbarello created a menu that went from pasta to rare truffles, in the best translation of Italian gastronomy.
Para no obento wa sekaiichi (Dad’s Lunch Box)
In another perspective of the Japanese cuisine, director Masakazu Fukatsu takes a real post (shared by millions of people) twitted by a Japanese girl in which she talks about the delicious bentos (Japonese packed lunch) her father prepare for her, to explore the relationship between parents and children on the perspective of food. In a fun way, he recreated the story by listening to the real characters. “To approach the affective side of food”, as he said, chef Matsuo Kowaki created a delicate and tasty menu that ended with sushis pieces served, of course, in a bento box.
By following the daily work of Catalan chef Albert Adrià, directors Laura Collado and Jim Loomis created Constructing Albert, a documentary that shows not only the chef’s creative force, but also the business acumen of the youngest Adrià – who had to impose himself on an iconic family name. From appointments and meetings to his ingenious work in the kitchen, the film seeks to show the personality of the chef, which has become one of the most important of the current world food scene. “During the last four years, we were able to gather a lot of material for this project, since Albert's day is almost a week of an ordinary person”, Collado joked. To create a menu worthy of the character, chefs Rubén Trincado, Dani López and Kxepa Txapartegi created ingenuous recipes such as the catch of the day with avocado, daikon and lime and the “tocino del cel” served in a dessert as a candy – wrapped in edible plastic.
The Trip to Spain
As the closing film of the Culinary Zinema gastronomic program, organizers chose The Trip to Spain, the new movie from the acclaimed English director Michael Winterbottom, who went on the road again with the duo Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (in the picture at the top of the page), this time through Spain. From the Basque Country to Andalucia, the old time friends travel the country by car eating fish made in parrilla, drinking Rioja wine and laughting at life, as always. Winterbottom said he doesn’t know yet what (and if!) will be the next country the actors might explore – and, of course, taste. “Greece would be a very good destination”, Coogan chimed in. For the dinner, the chefs of the restaurants where some scenes were shot, Jorge Maestro and Enrique Fleischmann, reproduced their most famous recipes such as the citrus Gin-Tonic with frozen lemon cream and the grilled octopus with caramelized potato, respectively.