The Flatirons Food Film Festival “virtually” covers a broad range of topics around food, from the recovery of Indigenous knowledge of food culture to the importance of waste reduction to the neglected heritage of African American cooking in our nation’s cookbooks. Here’s a selection of some options to whet your appetite and enlighten your mind.
Check it out Thursday, Jan. 28, through Feb. 5, flatironsfood film.eventive.org
4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, 74 minutes, $12
This documentary by director Sanjay Rawal’s follows efforts to revitalize Native foodways and reclaim Indigenous knowledge around food and culture. Follow San Carlos Apache master forager Twila Cassadore as she teaches younger generations about gathering traditional Apache foods used for nourishment and healing. Meet White Mountain Apache chef Nephi Craig, who explores how colonialism co-opted the traditional foods of the Americas while, at the same time, stamping out the knowledge base around such foods. Fred DuBray of the Cheyenne River Lakota engages in a remarkable effort to reestablish the buffalo herds that once formed the core of the tribe’s self-sufficient economy. “The buffalo are in the same spot as we are,” DuBray says. “They were almost wiped out. too.”
A live discussion and audience Q&A follows the screening, led by Clint Carroll, an associate professor in the department of ethnic studies and an executive board member of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Karlos Baca, an Indigenous foods activist and founder of the Indigenous food cooperative Taste of Native Cuisine in the Southern Ute territory of Colorado.
1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, 87 minutes, $12
Sneaking a peek in the dumpster behind a restaurant, Ronni Kahn shakes her head, and says, “This is all perfectly good food that shouldn’t have gone to waste.” The former event planner from Australia has a mission: to make sure hungry people get the surplus food that otherwise ends up in the nation’s landfills. “First, I want to change it here and then we’ll take it to the world.” Food Fighter (2018) chronicles her one-woman crusade against waste.
The camera follows Kahn, sporting short-cropped grey hair and flamboyantly colored horn-rimmed glasses, around Australia as she explores the myriad, often ridiculous reasons why good food goes to waste. Growers explain, for instance, how bananas can be rejected by the market because of the lightest blemishes and lemons because they exceed size standards.
Through her food rescue organization, OzHarvest, she brings food to charity organizations across the country and organizes annual upscale dinners for hundreds of homeless people, where they’re treated with the dignity they seldom encounter otherwise. Kahn is ambitious: She also hopes to fix what she sees as a broken system, and her activism has led to serious efforts to combat waste. The establishment of an annual conference on food waste brought the issue into the public consciousness, and helped to bring commitments from Australia’s food industries to reduce the amount of waste created by the nation’s consumer society. Food Fighter is a thoughtful documentary with a global message: If we reduce waste, we reduce carbon and methane gas, which impact the climate and the environment.
Keepers of Black American Food Culture
6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, $12
Produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, this series inaugurates the start of Black History Month with seven short films that explore the efforts to preserve knowledge of Black American food culture, as well as the passion of those who keep it alive in the kitchen and on the table.
In filmmaker Joe York’s Table of Ideas (7 minutes), for instance, food scholar Adrian Miller discusses his role as a former member of Bill Clinton’s administration and his numerous books on food history, including The President’s Kitchen Cabinet, which covers the African American chefs who’ve served in the White House from the time of George Washington to Barack Obama. Born and raised in Denver, Miller is a passionate gastronome. This brief profile explores his quest to put the influential but neglected legacy of Black American food history on the map. “I want to recognize people who haven’t been recognized, people who’ve been on the margins,” he says, adding that his intention is to get people excited to explore cuisines they may not be familiar with.
In Spoken Dish: Ode to Gumbo (2 minutes), poet Kevin Young gives an impassioned reading of his poem on the beloved, spicy soup of the American South. Interspersed with his reading are clips of hands, in close-up, preparing this classic dish. Young’s poem gets to the heart of gumbo’s enduring appeal and why it’s among those dishes commonly referred to as “soul food.”
“I know gumbo starts with sorrow,” he reads, “with hands that cannot wait but must, with okra and a slow boil and things that cannot be taught, like grace.” Comparing the official state cuisine of Louisiana to the experience of living, he says, “There’s no one way to do it and a hundred different ways from here to Sunday to get it dead wrong.”
Join Miller and York for a post-screening discussion on this eye-opening collection of films. — Michael Abatemarco