Monday, May 15, 2017

Fermented (SIFF 2017) - Documentary Review

The Movie: Fermented

The Director: Jonathan Cianfrani

The Host: Chef Edward Lee

The Story: Celebrated chef Edward Lee travels the globe on a flavorful mission to discover how and why the fermentation process is a staple of world cuisine, including how it adds “culture” to cheese, beer, bread, pickles, kombucha, miso, and more.

The Review:
When sitting down to watch this film, I wasn't sure how interested I would be since I don't drink beer and I'm not a fan of most pickled items. As it turns out, Jonathan Cianfrani's one hour documentary is so much more than just taking a generic look at how foods and beverages are created using the fermentation process. He goes out of his way to find people who are masters of their specific craft and have followed traditions that have, in some cases, been passed down through generations of family. Through the eyes and thoughts of these people, the process of fermentation becomes more about how all levels of life interact with each other from the microscopic ingredients to the bakers, brewers, chefs, and everyone in between.

While that might sound a little too philosophical for a food documentary, it's really not. Chef Andrew Lee, who does all of the heavy lifting in front of the camera, does a great job of representing the audience in a very authentic way by asking questions and exploring each type of fermentation as he travels around the world learning new techniques and time honored traditions. Even though he is a highly respected chef, he appears open to learning and is often humbled by ideas and processes that turn modern cooking styles upside down with how simple and perfect something like a miso soup or kimchee can be when every bit of the creative process is done by hand with extra helpings of care and attention to detail.

The Verdict:
Fermented is a fantastic exploration of one of the more overlooked, yet widely used, processes within the culinary world. My only complaint is that the documentary is just over an hour in length. I could have easily watched Chef Lee talk to and work with each person for much longer than what we get to see on screen.

Fermented is an official selection of the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

Check out all of our coverage for the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

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