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Feel the 'Pressure'

Wilma Stephenson with one of her Frankford High students in Pressure Cooker

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Pressure Cooker was perhaps my favorite film at this year's Woodstock Film Festival, and thus the one about which I have the most regrets for not getting a chance to cover here before now. I still don't really have that chance this morning, but it feels like my duty to bring its first New York City screening to your attention: The documentary will be presented at IFC Center as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series' ongoing Winter Specials. And "special" is about right: Directors Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker spent a school year observing no-nonsense culinary arts instructor Wilma Stephenson and her class at Philadelphia's Frankford High, following the funny, sublime interweaving of their kitchen educations with the challenges of growing up in South Philly.

It's a competition film, it's a coming-of-age story, it's a profile in courage, all yielding an authentic drama that a film like American Teen only wishes it could exhibit. Still, even with Participant Productions and a successful festival run behind it, a theatrical release has thus far eluded Cooker; you'd do well to support this gem tonight with Becker, Grausman and Stephenson in person for a Q&A. I'm just saying. No pressure! [*Honk*]

Posted at December 10, 2008 8:56 AM

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