Sunday, May 12, 2024

Food Roots - 2024 SIFF Movie Review

The Documentary: Food Roots

The Director: Michele Josue

The Story: Emmy-Award winning Chicago Restaurateur Billy Dec adventures through his mother's native 7641 Islands of the Philippines to learn recipes from his last living elders, confronting culinary and cultural treasures and family secrets.

The Rating: 8.5 / 10

The Review:
Whatever you do, please do not watch this documentary on an empty stomach. You have been warned. From the very beginning, there are images of foods being prepared and meals being served that will leave you dreaming of all the delectable dishes on display. If nothing else, chef, entrepeneur, and soaicla media mogul Billy Dec knows the ins and outs of cooking like no one else and that brings me to the point of this documentary which showcases his journey to the Philippines to (re)discover and experience the roots of his family recipes.

Director Michele Josue (Nurse Unseen) follows Dec through what really seems to be a life changing adventure from recapping how the man achieved all the fame and status in multiple media formats to literally finding his roots in the Philippines through recipes and family bonding. The Philippines is high on my list of places I want to visit during this lifetime and this documentary just solidified all of the reasons why. The food all the way around just looks incredible, the culture is rich and deep with heavy influences from Spain and America (see: colonization) along with log standing indegenous traditions as well.

Josue does a great job of drawing the viewer into each of Billy Dec's experiences from enjoying an age old lumpia recipe to meeting legendary 107 year old tattoo artist Whang-od Oggay and you can see the realizations he has about how his cooking will be forever enhanced by these moments. Dec gives lots of great insight into what each moment means to him and how being on this journey is having an effect on him both as a chef and as a person. The real magic here is his newfound connections and re-connections with family which is emphasized by the contrasting nature of the two sides of his heritage.

Ultimately, family is the essential ingredient within the recipes of our lives and I'm thankful that we get to see someone like Billy Dec, an accomplished chef, actor, and TV personality, find the roots and a foundation that he was mostly unaware of. This documentary pretty much has it all. An engaging story, a journey of discovery, a visual language that is just stunning, and a cinematic menu filled with some of the most delicious looking foods you will ever see. Watch this documentary as soon as you have a chance. I'll be over here eating a big pile of pancit and lumpia until I pass out. Kain tayo!

By the way, a few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Josue while her previous documentary Nurse Unseen was still in production. You can listen to our converation here:

To keep track of all my SIFF reviews and festival coverage please go to: TheTwoOhSix at SIFF 2024. Also, visit the official SIFF How to Fest web page for detailed info on how to make the most of your festival experience.

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