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‘Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the perfect snack to warm your soul on a blustery autumn day. It is also the perfect dish to make for a woman if you want to guarantee yourself a happy ending.’ –Larry Cauldwell
In a landscape where local produce, artisanal cooking and food television are now widespread trends, the Food Film Festival strives to set itself apart from similar events around the country and around the world by positioning itself as a hedonistic celebration of the pure joy of eating, as opposed to a showcase for lecturing viewers on the dangers of eating unhealthy or ecologically wasteful food.
“Most people are afraid to get away from the finger-wagging film,” said George Motz, a Travel Channel host who co-founded the festival in 2007 with chef Harry Hawk.
He said that while events like San Francisco’s Food and Farm Film Fest and Europe’s Slow Food on Film Festival tend to highlight polemical food documentaries like 2008’s Food, Inc., the Food Film Festival, by contrast, puts the spotlight on the craft of creating delicious food and the act of eating it.
“We figure we might as well celebrate how to truly enjoy your food,” Motz said.
Seth Unger, the festival’s executive producer, agreed.
“It’s more of a carnival than a classroom,” he said.
The competitive film festival, now in its seventh year, will land at the Union Square’s AMC Village 7 Theater on Oct. 23 and run through Oct. 29. The New York festival will screen 38 food films presented in more than six categories—including Best Feature, Best Food Porn and Audience Favorite—before moving on to Chicago in late November and Charleston, S.C. next year.
‘One thing we ask ourselves is, when’s the precise moment when the viewer thinks, ‘Hey, I wonder what that tastes like?’ –George Motz
“One thing we ask ourselves is, when’s the precise moment when the viewer thinks, ‘Hey, I wonder what that tastes like?’” said Motz. “That’s exactly when we want to serve the food.”
Unger admitted that the festival is a logistical challenge, to say the least.
“It’s kind of complicated to serve a hot dish that’s timed to a certain frame of a particular film,” he said. “A million things could go wrong.” Much of an event’s finely-tuned clockwork is dependent on the sheer number of servers–30 to 40 will be present at each screening.
One of the festival’s most popular events is the Food Porn Party, which will be hosted by Larry Cauldwell, the self-proclaimed “world’s first food porn star.”
“He’s this 1970s porn actor-looking guy,” Unger said, “but it’s all about the food. It’s hilarious.”
Cauldwell writes the blog Scrumptious Delicacies, which features recipes for treats likes grilled cheese and heirloom tomato soup, along with the super close-up photos that exemplify food pornography.
“Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the perfect snack to warm your soul on a blustery autumn day. It is also the perfect dish to make for a woman if you want to guarantee yourself a happy ending,” Cauldwell writes of the dish.
This year, Cauldwell will preside over a Fondue Lounge serving up the molten cheese dip, as well as a late-night “food burlesque” performance.
“There really are no rules,” Unger said of the event.Matt Checkowski is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker whose two short films, Beer Braised Ox Cheek and Mixed Berries, Three Ways will both be screened as part of the Food Porn Party. He said that when it comes to defining food porn, that old adage “you know it when you see it” applies here, too.
“It’s always kind of one step beyond reality, towards indulgence, towards the fantastic. It crosses that line,” he said.
Both of Checkowski’s films feature the Swedish chef Martin Berg of the restaurant Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm. Checkowski said the pristine quality of the products Berg uses in his cooking makes his creations compelling subject matter.
“It’s just so from the earth,” Checkowski said of Berg’s cuisine. “He’s taking elements we’re all really used to and combining them in unexpected ways: a just so strawberry, a perfectly cooked piece of meat.”
Checkowski said that food and film make a natural match.
“From a documentary standpoint, there’s really something special about the folks involved in the food scene,” he said. “There’s a passion there that breaks through the lens in a very interesting way. It’s like they’re made for the camera.”