As the Tribeca Film Festival's 2019 season ramps up, tickets are selling like hotcakes. And, in part, that's due to the strong line-up of food films— more than in year's past— which feed our hunger for food on the screen.
Fans of Chef's Table and Chef Flynn (and, in our opinion, the superior food film, Ratatouille) will be satiated. This year, food films take the lead in New York: from the story of a Mexican dishwasher to an aging Chinese restaurant owner and his punk music-loving son. And similar to Chef's Table, which initially received flack for its focus on mainly white male chefs, this time the festival is back with a more diverse look into the industry. Although, we still hope for more in coming years, as few stories focus on women's leadership in food.
Still, the time is right. There has never been more interest surrounding restaurant culture. Under the Trump administration, food has become increasingly political and it's inspiring a new generation of restaurateurs, chefs and food producers to use the plate as a platform for activism. Last year's #MeToo revelations exposed abuse of power and sexual misconduct at the city's top restaurants.
With the unspooling of toxic masculinity in the kitchen, things are looking more optimistic, even though there's a long way to go. More members of the queer community, women and POC are at the helm of exciting new restaurants and nominated for accreditation from the James Beard Awards. There's more room for self-expression in kitchens (and more chef clothing companies taking the opportunity to profit) as well as the increasing rise of Instagram-made chef celebrities, with thousands of followers eager to see what dishes they're cooking up.
Here, we're breaking down why we're excited to check out these food films. Looking for more of the best new movies to watch? We've got you covered.
The Tribeca Film Festival will take place in Lower Manhattan at special venues from Wednesday, April 24th to Sunday, May 5th. More details at our Tribeca Film Festival guide.
THAT’S MY JAZZ
Why you should care: This documentary presents the tolls working in kitchens take on family life. The film, directed by Ben Proudfoot (Breakwater Studios) follows world-renowned pastry chef, Milt Abel II, who's worked at Per Se and Noma, as he looks back on his relationship with his father, Kansas City jazz legend Milt Abel Sr. The film focuses more on artful black and white shots rather than gooey food porn. For anyone who loves jazz, you'll see how working in kitchens creates similar experimental cacophony and musical rhythm. Tickets here.
Why you should care: This film focuses on the life of back-of-house staff, rarely given the respect they deserve for making kitchens run smoothly. In this short film by Nick Hartanto and Sam Roden, chef (Elisha Yaffe) asks a Mexican dishwasher (Kevin Balmore) to source good tortillas at a fine dining restaurant in New York City. Tickets here.
Why you should care: For anyone who has ever wanted to ride inside a Mr. Softee truck. This film, directed by Ross Killeen, goes into the complicated business of ice cream, with a fun pink truck called Pinky's in tow. Tickets here.
Why you should care: Another father-relationship food film focuses on "contemporary masculinities." Directed by Madeleine Gottlieb, Snare is a narrative short about a father's (Steve Rodgers) failing Chinese restaurant and a son's (James Fraser) passion for punk music. Though we think it would've made for a more interesting story had they actually been Chinese. Tickets here.
Tale of Two Kitchens
Why you should care: Directed by Mexico City-based Trisha Ziff, known for Chevolution (2008) and The Mexican Suitcase (2011), here she focuses for the first time on the kitchen. Tale of Two Kitchens follows the cross-cultural connections between a kitchen in San Francisco and Mexico City. Tickets here.
A Taste of Sky
Why you should care: Similar to his work with the Brownsville Community Culinary Center in Brooklyn, this documentary highlights Claus Meyer's social justice work in Bolivia. Gustu is the Noma co-founder's fine dining establishment and culinary training center, working with lower-income communities. The documentary especially highlights Kenzo, a hunter raised in the Bolivian Amazon, and Maria Claudia, a native of the Andean altiplano and their experience at the La Paz restaurant. We're tired of seeing films about Noma, so we hope the film focuses more on Kenzo and Maria Claudia than the celebrity chef. Tickets here.
Another food film at the festival this year is The Good, The Bad, and The Hungry about Nathan's hot dog eating contest (we're less interested given the recent backlash against the food chain, and the future is plant-based eating anyway!)