Friday, October 21, 2016

Planet in Focus Film Festival Review - Theater of Life

One billion people on the planet have an overabundance of food while the same number on the other end of the spectrum have little or nothing to eat at all. The goal of Chef Massimo Bottura is to bring these two extremes closer together by using the waste from the former to feed the latter. The opening quote of the film refers to bread being gold. Massimo's plan is to use the daily disregarded food from the 2015 Milan Expo to feed the poor of the Greco district in the bottom of a historical theatre. Bottura made a few calls leading to 60 chefs from all over the world including Mario Batali, John Winter Russell, Jeremy Charles and Yoshihiro Narisawa attending Milan to cook for the locals.

Director Peter Stavek focuses on a few of the regulars that attend the Refettorio Ambrosiano Soup Kitchen. Svatek spent time with them learned about their lives outside of the kitchen, what has happened in their past and their hopes for the future. As a few of the Chef said the normal conversation with guests are different in this situation.  It's hard to ask how things are going at work or what the next big upcoming event is if your audience are the homeless and refugees.

The main ingredient for the meals at the Refettorio Ambrosiano is bread the main waste item from the Expo's pavilions. The bread is stale so the chefs have to improvise to make dishes for the guests. The next plentiful ingredients are vegetables and elements to make sauces that the expert use to create their gourmet meals.

The first locals introduced are Stefi and Marco who live in the Monza train station. They are happy despite their current situation and are only looking for a home. Marco sings an Italian version of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone that a defacto theme for the soup kitchen's guests. Fawaz is the most defiant of the regulars. He feels treated like an object at the kitchen believing that no one cars about his fate once he steps outside of the kitchen's doors. Fatou is the most positive dreaming of being a model despite being confined to a wheelchair. She is friendly to everyone  always having  a smile on her face. Georgio and Christiana have the most challenging backgrounds. Girogio had several mental issues that included a suicide attempt while Christiana past includes prostitution and being abandoned by the father of her young child.

Director Stavek touches on several leading issues in today's society in the film. The locals discuss the new refugees in Italy with the native Italian feeling that there is no room in the shelters due to the influx of the new arrivals. The waste of food is a hot topic all over the world. Chef Bottura and his partner Lara Gilmore have taken action forming whose presence was at last seen at the Rio Olympics at Refttorio Gastromotiva . Food is family and meals are a forum to exchange ideas and thoughts so much so that the Refettorio Ambrosiano Soup Kitchen turned into the community centre for the poor Greco district of Milan.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Theater of Life | Peter Svatek | Canada | 94 Minutes.

Tags: Bread, Milan Expo 2015, Monza Train Station, Like a Rolling Stone, Refettorio Ambrosiano,Soup Kitchen, Gourmet Chef, Homeless, Refugee.

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