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MARCH

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NYC Film Festivals

Meals on Reels

Director Grace Lee in her short celebration of currywurst, Best of the Wurst (Photo: Credofilm)

By Cathy Erway

It’s the type of filmgoing experience that would make John Waters proud: On an outdoor screen on a clear summer night at Harry’s Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City, Bonnie and John Eckre explain the genesis of their green chile cheeseburger. Dripping with sauce made with native chiles, the local sensation they serve at The Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, N.M., is one of the several subjects of George Motz’s documentary feature, Hamburger America. Seated at picnic tables facing the screen, audience members watch as they gamely sink their teeth into freshly grilled cheeseburgers topped with a hearty spoonful of green chile. Introducing taste-o-vision -- or more formally, the New York City Food Film Festival.

“This is a celebration of food and film and people who make them,” said Harry Hawk, the venue's propietor and co-founder of the festival. Together with co-founder Motz, the two friends began with the intention of screening Hamburger America and serving some of the burgers shown in the film. The idea for the film festival soon followed. “We’re using year one as an exhibition, just to get off the ground and to see what comes in.” Motz told The Reeler.

The 16 films screening over the course of the festival’s three weekends (it opened June 14, continues this weekend and concludes Sept. 6-8) include mostly documentary shorts and features on food, such as Paul Kermizian’s American Beer, Mariana Coyne’s Living on the Wedge: Wisconsin’s Artisan Cheese Makers, Grace Lee’s Best of the Wurst, and Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly’s Asparagus The Movie. Those more interested in watching a film, however, may find the festival’s online ticketing system perplexing: Instead of buying tickets for the films, you need only purchase your meal in advance. Watch one evening’s program based around the theme of sausages and you’re going to get taste-o-vision, like it or not.

One might wonder whether all the emphasis on food contributes to a rather reductionist look at the films. For instance, Hamburger America, on the surface a sort of gluttonous antithesis to Super Size Me, follows an assortment of chefs, farmers and diners who each share in common their devotion to a certain religion of burger-making standards set in stone some years ago. The word “artisan” is one that should come up frequently in the festival, applying both to filmmakers who have focused their attention on a piece of food history and their subjects. Hawk, who has recreated many of the foods seen in the films, is no exception.

He does have one advantage, though. “All these dishes have a lot in common, which is very fresh ingredients (and) for the most part very few ingredients," he said. "And so yeah, if we had to do Babette’s Feast, I couldn’t do that.”

The first-ever New York City Food Film Festival will screen June 21-23 and September 6-8 at the Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City, Queens. For tickets, directions, and a full schedule, visit the festival's Web site.

Posted at June 20, 2007 8:27 AM

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