August 22, 2011  |  Film
Delights of a Culinary Cineaste

Festival Director Dieter Kosslick. Photo: Amelie Losier. © Berlinale 2010

MoMA has described me as a Culinary Cineaste and given me Carte Blanche to select some of my favorite food films. My sincere thanks to MoMA and to Rajendra Roy for inviting me. What a pleasure and honor, because food is vital, and not just to me.

When I became director of the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) one of my first decisions was to serve good food and decent wines at receptions. Inspiring and exciting films are food for our souls and brains, so the food you serve after showing them should be chosen with the same care.

Five years ago we launched a festival section called Culinary Cinema, where we screen movies, eat and drink, and talk. Contrary to the common practice in multiplexes, we separate these activities—first we see a movie, which addresses the subject of food or the environment, then we eat and drink outside the cinema in a nice restaurant and start talking. This is not only healthier than fast food from the theater lobby but also a solid recipe for a perfect date.

Food has become the rock’n’roll of the 21st century. Cooks are suddenly pop stars and food programs have conquered prime time TV. This is a symptom of our rediscovering a long forgotten truth: that food is at the center of life, and that culture started with agriculture.

It’s not only that we would die if we did not eat—it’s also true that we are dying because we eat. Way over 50% of environmental damage is caused by industrial food production, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and global food transportation. To put it simply, who can feed the world without destroying it: Slow Food or Fast Food?

This straightforward question has many diverse answers because diversity is at the base of biological and cultural life. Culinary Cinema is a place to reflect on pleasure and responsibility. Enjoying pleasures without assuming responsibility is stupid, says the founder of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini, and, he continues, acting responsibly and forgetting about the joy of life is boring.

Big Night

Big Night. 1996. USA. Directed by Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott

The Carte Blanche: Dieter Kosslick, the Culinary Cineaste film exhibition running this week at MoMA presents highlights of culinary cinema from the Museum’s collection. One of my all-time favorites opens the series: Big Night,directed by and starring the wonderful Stanley Tucci, and co-starring this year’s Berlinale jury president, Isabella Rossellini.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi. 2011. USA. Directed by David Gelb

On the next day one of the best food authors in the world, Ruth Reichl, will join me in presenting Jiro Dreams of Sushi,a lively documentary about 86-year- old sushi master Jiro Ono from Tokyo. After the movie we will discuss with Ruth and star chefs Gabriel Kreuther and Michael Romano the problems of finding good ingredients in an environment which is becoming more and more contaminated.

The good news is that Chef Kreuther is preparing special dinners in his restaurant, The Modern, which will correspond to some of the movies in the program. When the movie has ended the feeling will linger on at the dining table, or vice versa, as you can also enjoy a delicious meal before the film.

I really hope that you can share my passion for food and movies and come to see the films and enjoy the special food-and-film pairings. Maybe you will also be able to drop by at the Berlinale, February 9-19, 2012, where we could raise a glass or two to each other.

Reservations for food-and-film pairings made at The Modern seven or more days in advance include two complimentary tickets to the accompanying film. Call (212) 333-1220 to reserve your table. Download the full menu in PDF format (Adobe Acrobat required).