The director, known for his sweeping high-definition close-ups of food, used an iPhone 13 Pro to shoot the documentary called Poached, all about Singapore's iconic Hainanese chicken rice.
As you would expect, the short film is visually rich and colourful, with the famed hawker-sold chicken rice dish getting the full Gelb treatment, elevating it to high gastronomy. But there is more to it than just food shots, as it explores the rivalry between two famous Maxwell Food Centre stalls: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice.
“I think that throughout all of my work, from Jiro to Chef's Table and Street Food on Netflix and now to Poached with Apple and iPhone, it's really about following characters who are obsessed, who are passionate about what they do,” Gelb told CNA Lifestyle. “And that is an infectious quality. It's something that is so exciting and entertaining to watch. And then when you have that kind of character plus delicious food it's really a winning kind of recipe. It's something that I've applied through all of my work.”
The documentary features interviews with both the owners of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice, two establishments with a deep connection and a shared history that have since gone their separate ways and now vie for customers on the same patch.
Chicken rice is a national obsession in Singapore and locals support their local hawkers with the zeal of a sports team, it makes for a fascinating look at the community and traditions told through the subject of food – perfectly Gelb.
The documentary does a good job of promoting the iPhone 13 Pro’s magnificent video attributes and its size allowed Gelb to get into the tight spots in the hawker centre that a larger camera rig wouldn’t be able to. The release was also accompanied by a video detailing how Gelb used the iPhone 13 Pro to shoot the film, for those interested in making their own documentaries.
Does this mean that the age of the Instagram meal image is drawing to a close and new era of high-end Chef’s Table style documentaries is on the way?
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