Slow Food USA and the American Center for Wine, Food & Arts, in the Napa of stars & stripes wine guru Roberto Mondavi, have decided on an encore. Less than a year after the first instalment of a working relationship made in heaven (held last year in August), the “snail” once again played a leading role on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 June in the farm food area of Beauborg, California.
The repeat performance of last year’s success took place during the Slow Food World Food Fair event. Alongside delicacies from all over the States, the 2002 program featured a selection of short films: Slow Food on Film, the first short film festival dedicated to food and sponsored by Slow Food, held in the Copia theatre. On that occasion, I brought along four of the best films from the first Bra festival, which met with huge success. This year, rather surprisingly, I was invited back.
Slow Food on Film at Copia had announced its sequel, and I had to prepare a new selection for the Californian audience. Last year I chose the ‘gold snail’ winner, Peperoni (Italian), the honorable mention Oyster Guanaco (American), A Love Supreme (Anglo-Indian) and Love to Meat You (Greek). But this year I allowed more space for US films: American entries Life is A Sweet by James Duff and Sunday by Andrew Bloch were included in the official 2002 selection, along with the English film Stanley by Suzie Templeton. The first is the story of a female advertising executive who makes up for her frustrations at work with sweets and chocolate. The second reveals how a Second World War widow finds consolation in the ritual of Sunday lunch. The third, a multiple award-winning cartoon, describes the weird existence of old Stanley, married to a bloodthirsty hag, who ends up falling in love with a horse. I wanted to give an idea of the upcoming edition of Slow Food on Film (Bra, April 2004), so as well as this trio of films I brought a fourth one: Easy as Pie by American Jon Berkovitz, which had already been selected last year. Easy as Pie is set in provincial America and centers on the eternal competition between two sisters in their annual pie contest. This great short film, beautifully shot and told, helped Jon (who came to Copia in person to present his film with me) to obtain a full honors degree at USC. A powerful two-meter giant with bright, gentle eyes, Jon has already booked his flight to Bra next spring to personally present the film he made with the blessing of his friend John Landis.
The Saturday in Napa was bathed in dazzling sunshine and countless visitors flocked to the stalls of the Slow Food World Food Fair in the garden behind the American Center for Wine and Food, where stalls displayed lemon crepes from Chez Panisse, Indian specialties from Ronith Singh, Toni Sakaguchi’s selection of sushi and Mexican recipes from the Picante restaurant in Berkeley. A series of food demonstrations began at midday with a lesson in Mexican tortillas, followed by Robert Traverso’s stuffed vine leaves, Salvadorian pupusas made by Rocio de Alba Sanchez and, lastly, Joyce Goldstein’s Hebrew recipes for hummus and casseroled eggplant.
Inside, in the dark, with merciless freezing air-conditioning, the Copia Theater filled up for two screenings of the highlights of Slow Food on Film. I introduced the screenings with a little speech about the festival, in my sketchy English, and concluded with an interview with Jon Berkovitz, whose work was greeted with interest and success. The event was repeated on the Sunday, although this time the chosen film was Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution, a documentary made by American channel PBS about the American queen of organic food, founder of Chez Panisse and oft-named ‘Best Chef in America’. Alice Waters herself introduced the film with a short speech, her usual iron charisma tempered with gentle manners. On the Sunday evening, the whole Slow Food group, myself included, transferred to a splendid villa in the Santa Rosa woods for a magnificent dinner accompanied by marvelous Zinfandels, with their aromas of cinnamon and cloves. 24 hours after dinner I was escorted by the invaluable Bill Alber of Slow Food USA to begin my tiresome return journey to Italy, after barely five days on Californian soil.
The next edition of Slow Food On Film will take place in Rovereto, in the Trentino region, from August 26-30, during Mescolanze, the world cooking event organised by Slow Food Trentino (14 of the 21 films will be shown). The association was suggested by Paolo Bellini, director of the event, and could be repeated next year, and even become a regular feature. We shall see.
Before I finish I would like to mention that the Cinema Corto in Bra contest is officially open, and the Festival includes Slow Food on Film as well as a new contest for short documentaries on the memory of food Slow Food on Film Doc. For rules, closing dates, etc., see www.slowfoodonfilm.it
Stefano Sardo, a novelist and screenwriter, is the director of the Slow Food on Film festival
Photo: Copia director Peggy Loar with founder Robert Mondavi
Translation by Ailsa Wood