For Julia Joun, technical writer by day and International Film Series (IFS) super-volunteer by night, food and film have long been major parts of her life. She is an avid canner and foodie — she says she loves going to “food swaps” put on by the Mile High Swappers — and she has loved film since she moved to Boulder in 1990, attending IFS screenings for decades and volunteering to do marketing for the festival for the past couple years. It was only a matter of time until she combined the two.
“There’s one part of my life that’s all about food, and there’s another part of my life that’s all about film. It sort of seemed natural,” Joun says.
The result is the first-ever Chow Down: IFS Film Food Festival, featuring six films with corresponding events, taking place Oct. 9–13 on various screens around Boulder. It should be quite the cinematic feast for movie lovers in a city lauded as the nation’s foodiest.
The festival kicks off with Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers, director Les Blank’s 1980 documentary celebrating the wonders and quirks of the famously stinky ingredient. Blank is legendary for his obsessive documentaries about obscure subjects, such as Gap-Toothed Women and In Heaven There Is No Beer?, a documentary exploring polka sub-culture. In Garlic, he turns his camera on the culinary scene of San Francisco and the garlic obsessives in that area. But his journey also takes him from barbecue joints to the Spanish countryside to Alice Waters and her famous restaurant Chez Panisse, a legendary Bay Area restaurant. Karen Beeman of WeeBee Farms, who Boulderites might recognize from her garlic-heavy stand at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, will introduce the film. The free screening is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Boulder Public Library.
The festival continues with Somm, a new documentary following a group of men preparing for the master sommelier exam, the highest honor in wine one can attain. The exam itself has three parts, but the documentary (showing Friday, Oct. 11, at Muenzinger Auditorium) focuses mainly on preparing for the tasting: a brutal test in which the candidates face six glasses of wine and must identify the type of wine, when it was made, and the region in which it was produced, just by smell and taste alone. It seems impossible until you see the candidates nose-deep in a glass of wine, identifying hints of under-ripe melon skin and plastic pool toy, before somehow correctly identifying what’s in the glass as a 2009 wine from the Northern Rhône region of France. Bobby Stuckey, master sommelier and co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine, will introduce the film, and after the film there will be a panel discussion featuring three others who have made it through: Sally Mohr, Wayne Belding and Douglas Krenik, moderated by John Lehndorff.
Documentaries about food abound, but Joun managed to find some feature films centered around food, too. She’s programmed two full-length narrative films about food for the festival.
“Food is a really interesting topic that can take many interesting forms,” Joun says. “People don’t want to see six documentaries. I don’t blame them. I like feature films as well.”
Joun programmed Jadoo and Now, Forager as part of the festival. Jadoo, (playing Saturday, Oct. 12, at Muenzinger Auditorium) by British director Amit Gupta, tells the story of two brothers who, decades ago, severed their business relationship and opened two competing restaurants across the street from one another. They tear the family recipe book in half, one getting the starters, and one getting the main courses. Local Indian food blogger Manisha Pandit will introduce the film. Now, Forager (playing Sunday, Oct. 13, in Muenzinger Auditorium), the story of husband-and-wife wild-mushroom foragers who sell their wares to high-end restaurants around Manhattan. Their already strained relationship and itinerant lifestyle faces a test when the wife accepts a job in the kitchen of one of those restaurants. Eric Skokan, owner of Black Cat Farm Table Bistro, will introduce the film.
A Place At The Table explores hunger in the United States. The documentary (showing Saturday, Oct. 12, at Muenzinger Auditorium) illustrates the epidemic (an estimated 50 million people in the U.S. don’t know where their next meal is coming from) through interviews with those experiencing food insecurity as well as with activist and actor Jeff Bridges. Suzanne Crawford, CEO of Sister Carmen Community Center, will introduce the film.
Make Hummus, Not War (showing Sunday, Oct. 13, at Muenzinger Auditorium) is Australian filmmaker Trevor Graham’s attempt to solve a Mediterranean culinary mystery: Who invented hummus? The Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli people all claim the spread as their own, and Graham takes an entertaining shot at finding out who’s right.
“There’s animation, there’s a lot of interviews with all kinds of different people, from taxi drivers to people who own hummus shops, to politicians — ministry officials who are talking about hummus!” Joun says. “And he’s surreptitiously trying to find out who makes the best hummus. And at the same time he talks about his own hummus history.”
Liora Halperin, assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder, will introduce the film, and Joun is offering theatergoers a chance to find out for themselves. On that Sunday, Shine restaurant will host a “Hummus Throwdown,” a judged event where people can taste and vote for their favorite hummus.
“There are going to be 15 purveyors of hummus all vying for the title of best hummus in Boulder County,” Joun says, then adds, “It’s [a throwdown] that actually makes everybody happy.”
For a complete schedule and up-to-date show times, visit www.chow-down.com.