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Upcoming ‘Food and Film’ series at Hammer Museum redefines dinner and a movie

A still from Erige Sehiri’s “Under the Fig Trees” is shown. The 2021 drama will be screened during the inaugural weekend of the “Food and Film” series, presented by the Hammer Museum and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. (Courtesy of Under the Fig Trees/UCLA Film & Television Archive)

“Food and Film: Farming ”

Aug. 11 and 12

Billy Wilder Theater

By Victoria Munck

Aug. 10, 2023 10:27 a.m.

The age-old concept of dinner and a movie is embracing a new meaning at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Friday will open the inaugural weekend of the archive’s ongoing “Food and Film” series, a program developed in partnership with the Hammer Museum and chef Alice Waters. In addition to a screening of culinary-centric films in the Billy Wilder Theater, the museum’s Lulu restaurant will also offer a special Provençal menu curated by founders Waters and David Tanis. Amanda Salazar, public programmer at the archive, said the event series aims to generate important discussions that guests can carry far past the dinner table.

“These collaborations are so incredibly valuable to audiences (because they) push beyond the more passive experience of sitting and watching a film,” Salazar said. “Audiences can take away something and look at these films in a more active way.”

[Related: Orphan Film Symposium shines light on forgotten media in weekend at Hammer Museum]

The three presented movies will all connect to the weekend’s theme of “Farming,” which Salazar said intentionally aligns with Waters’ extensive advocacy for the farm-to-table movement. She added that each title finds a different way to highlight how farmers interact with land to bring food to their communities, including the program’s introductory film, Marcel Pagnol’s “Harvest.” The 1937 French drama conveys the event’s intended message by detailing how the cultivation of wheat allows a dying village to find new life, the archive’s senior public programmer Paul Malcolm said.

On Saturday, the series will continue with a double feature consisting of King Vidor’s “Our Daily Bread” and Erige Sehiri’s “Under the Fig Trees,” Malcolm said. The weekend’s final two showings present depictions ranging from crop challenges during the Great Depression to the beauty of life on a modern fruit orchard, he added. These join together to help exemplify how farming not only provides people with nourishment, he said, but also a greater sense of connection.

“All of the films, to a certain extent, come back to (the idea) that this is a way of sustaining the community, sustaining a culture and sustaining a way of life,” Malcolm said. “The idea is not just to entertain, but to help connect people to that larger awareness.”

Lulu’s accompanying dinner menu will allow patrons to further engage in this communal experience, Malcolm said. The restaurant’s partnership with the archive on the series feels particularly meaningful, Salazar said, because the teams share a commitment to authenticity throughout their work. By incorporating local produce and spotlighting the farmers’ efforts to supply it, Lulu will help foster a deeper connection between attendees and their meals, she added.

Friday’s series launch will also feature a pre-screening Q&A with Waters, Tanis and farmer Alexander Weiser, which Salazar said will tie in into the event’s cohesive themes of community and sustainability. Malcolm said he believes the conversation will prove beneficial to audiences as it joins with the dinner and film viewing to deliberately activate all five of their senses. He anticipates that the insight from the discussion will allow viewers to leave with a heightened investment in the chain of choices shaped by agricultural needs, he said.

“It’s about making people hear the ideas,” Malcolm said. “The more people can become aware of the actual processes behind the food they eat, they can become more interested in trying to make sure those processes reflect the values they support as well.”

[Related: Film & Television Archive to screen alumni’s documentary on incarcerated women]

May Hong HaDuong, director of the archive, said the event’s partners are actively working to present more installments of the series, as it resonates strongly with the values of both UCLA and the greater Los Angeles community. Similarly, Salazar said she intends for the program to continue quarterly, providing a space to expand upon the informative conversations that have already begun. HaDuong is eager to see how the medium of movies encourages “Food and Film” guests to improve upon their ecosystem in the long term, she said.

“In California, (we) have so (many) beautiful options for food at our fingertips,” HaDuong said. “There’s so much disconnect from how we eat, how that food gets on our plate and I’m hoping the series bridges that gap between what we know about our food systems and how we can contribute to those worlds in better ways.”

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Victoria Munck | Arts editor
Munck is the 2024-2025 Arts editor. She was previously an assistant Arts editor on the theater | film | television beat. Munck is a third-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
Munck is the 2024-2025 Arts editor. She was previously an assistant Arts editor on the theater | film | television beat. Munck is a third-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
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