When you think about it, it's kind of a mystery that this hasn't happened before. We here in the Bay Area love food, especially food that comes from farms that we know about, and we also love throwing film festivals, especially festivals that involve locally-sourced films about things we're interested in. And yet, while there are food festivals and many film festivals, the upcoming Food & Farm Film Fest at the Roxie is the very first film festival about food and farms. Finally!
The Food & Farm Film Fest is presented in conjunction with Bi-Rite Market as well as Three Squares, a food education and advocacy non-profit. And since it would be a big mouth-watering tease otherwise, all six of the programs over the three days of the Fest will be accompanied by tastily appropriate noms from your favorite Mission-based eateries.
The opening night movie Trattoria, a narrative film about father and son turbulence while opening a restaurant in San Francisco, will be accompanied by pizza from Delfina. Meanwhile, the edibles at the afterparty at Four Barrel will include s'mores made with TCHO chocolate. In many ways, TCHO s'mores may well encapsulate all that's simultaneously goofy and wonderful about San Francisco food culture.
Saturday kicks off with a 1 p.m. screening of Pixar's increasingly underrated Ratatouille from a rare 35mm print. It'll be served with exactly what you'd expect it to be served with, courtesy of Chef Melissa Perello from Frances. (She'll be making ratatouille, just so we're clear.) Afterward, the 12 kids whose parents bought tickets in time (hint hint) will get to take part in a French Cooking for Kids class down the street at 18 Reasons.
The 4 p.m. "Food, Justice & Art" shorts program will be accompanied by accompanied by Walnut Tartlets from Mission Pie, and the shorts themselves will cover topics as diverse as rooftop gardens in China, female farmers in Uganda, and mom-and-pop soda-makers, and will also feature "16 Seeds" by 2013 SF Weekly Masterminds winner Melinda James.
Though it's by far the oldest movie on the menu, the 8 p.m. feature is in many ways the most exciting item on the menu: Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, Les Blank's 1980 documentary on the Bay Area's garlic fixation and burgeoning food culture. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse (we wish it a speedy reopening) is featured in the film and will also be on hand to introduce the movie, and since it's guaranteed to make you hungry -- seriously, if Henry Chung's real-time garlic stir-fry demonstration doesn't make you drool, you're clearly lacking salivary glands -- a "garlicky surprise" will be provided by Andalu. As surprises go, garlicky ones are totally the best.
Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers was added to the National Film Registry in 2004, and while it's a great movie by any standard (other films added that year include David Lynch's Eraserhead and Andy Warhol's Empire), we'd like to think it's because Les Blank gave us this image.
While Friday and Saturday's movies deal with more with the preparation of food, Sunday's offerings look more at how it's grown, the "Farm" part of the equation. First up is Betting the Farm at 4 p.m., a documentary about family farmers in Maine launching their own milk distribution company, followed by a discussion about the future of California's own dairy farmers. The accompanying food is even more decadent than the TCHO's smores: Bi-Rite Creamery's Maine Maple Ice Cream with Hilltop Boilers maple syrup.
But you'll want to save room for the final feature, The Last Shepherd at 7 p.m. It's a documentary about a peculiar man in Milan, one Renato Zuccheli, who follows his passion of herding sheep regardless of the fact that the world has moved beyond the need for shepherds -- or, perhaps, because of the fact. Edited differently, it could be a portrait of a man with a largely impractical obsession that his family grudgingly goes along with, but as it is, The Last Shepherd is surprisingly heartwarming, with an ending that practically feels like a superhero origin story, or the origin of a modern-day Santa Claus, one who lets children experience the simple, old-world joys of sheep.
Although most of festival's tidbits don't involve meat, the Food & Farm Film Fest is not a strictly vegetarian affair, nor is The Last Shepherd in any way a plea to not eat sheep -- indeed, one of the more interesting scenes is of Renato overcoming the language barrier when making a sale to a halal butcher -- so it's fitting that the accompanying dish is lamb meatballs in mint sauce from Farina. If you're going to eat meat, this is how to do it right.
The Food & Farm Film Fest runs March 29 - 31 at the Roxie Theater. Full details are available at the Food & Farm Film Fest website.