Despite the idea you might get from the name — never mind the haute cuisine that accompany the films in its main program — Culinary Cinema might arguably be the most deliberately political section of the festival.
Section director Thomas Struck’s motto is “Make Food Not War.” “That is due to the current political situation and the idea that food is the basic peace bringer,” says Struck. “If you don’t want to kill your opponents, which in the end is never successful, you have to negotiate — you have to sit together and eat together.”
Now in its 10th season, the program developed out of the influence and early relationships with slow-cooking advocate/activists Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini, and for Struck, cooking represents the connection between social and ecological concerns. “When we lose, or forget about, the ability to cook,” Struck explains, “we lose a basic part of being a human being. When we allow big corporations to take over the production and preparation of our food, then we are losing a basic ability, which makes us human. ”
This year’s highlights are guests Michael Pollan, and star chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, whose Mugaritz restaurant in Spain is one of the world’s best. Food writer Pollan will present two episodes from the upcoming Netflix series “Cooked,” based on his best-selling book and produced by Alex Gibney, whose documentary “Zero Days” is showing in Berlin’s competition . The chef for that evening will be Michael Kempt of Berlin’s Facil. Pollan is also showing “In Defense of Food With Michael Pollan,” and will appear for a special Tea Time talk at the Mirror restaurant (admission is free).
Aduriz is the subject of Pep Gatell’s “Off-Road. Mugaritz, Feeling a Way,” which mixes food, theater and the ethnology of the Basque region in a collaboration between Aduriz and the Barcelona theater company, Furia dels Baus. This is Aduriz’s second time at the Berlinale and he will cook for his own film. “It’s a special gift,” says Struck.
Also featured are Pierre Deschamps’ profile of revolutionary Nordic chef Rene Redzepi in “Norma My Perfect Storm”; while in “Vleesverlangen,” filmmaker Marijn Frank explores her love of meat and discovers what being a carnivore really means; and Eric Khoo follows a Chinese food critic as he re-examines his life and re-discovers his city (Shanghai) through it’s street food in “Wanton Mee.” Accompanying meals will be prepared by chefs Sven Elverfeld, Sonja Fruhsammer and Alexander Dressel, respectively.
Not only do you get the movie, but apres film in the Gropius Mirror Restaurant, while enjoying the appetizers and aperitifs, audiences can watch a live feed from the kitchen and see the meal come together. There will also be discussions with both the directors and chefs over dessert.
But for those not disposed to the big-ticket meals of the main program, Culinary Cinema offers the more populist Food and Film experience through the Berlinale Street Food Market extending down Joseph-von-Eichendorff-Gasse, now in its third year. “Good food should not be an elitist thing,” Struck explains. “It can be simple and affordable and (the food trucks) fit our philosophy of being organic, local, and an alternative to ‘industrial food.’ It’s the basic formula,” he adds, “eat drink, see a movie.”
Want to splurge on your own meal with some of the guest chefs? Three of them in the vicinity of Berlin.
Michael Kempf at Facil
Located on the 5th floor of the Mandala Hotel in Postdamer Platz, this elegant eatery has two Michelin stars.
Sonja Fruhsammer at Fruhsammer’s Restaurant
If are up for a trip outside the festival, Fruhsammer’s Restaurant is in Berlin Grunewald, 30 minutes from Potsdammer Platz.
Alexander Dressel at Bayrisches Haus Potsdam
Reservations for all a must for the Michelin-starred Dressel’s restaurant located 1½ hours from Potsdamer Platz in the Wildpark forest at the Hotel Bayrisches Haus.