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Breaking Bread

"This is a joyous film – with some mouth-watering looking food as a bonus"

★★★★★ - STUFF 

- A stunning celebration of food and those who make it wonderful - 

The A-Sham festival is a three-day celebration of Arabic and regional food.

It happens every year – Covid permitting – in the Israeli city of Haifa.

The kaupapa behind the festival is as simple as it is nuanced: To remind people of all nationalities and faiths that they share a common history, far older and deeper than any modern events that divide them. The A-Sham festival is a hymn to the healing – the togethering – power of food.

Like musicians in a concert hall, the 70 chefs working in their 35 restaurants are only interested in honouring the creation, the sharing and the community who have gathered to, literally, lucky them, consume.

Breaking Bread was shot and recorded in the days leading up to the 2019 iteration of the festival. And it is just about my favourite documentary of 2021 so far.

The film is a celebration of food and the skill, knowledge and passion it takes to make food wonderful. But, there are far deeper rhythms here too.

The A-Sham festival brings together chefs from all over the Levant – that historical region today known as Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and most of Turkey. The region was divided by departing colonisers – the British, mainly – into countries and regions that have been taught to distrust each other, more by modern politics than any ancient religious differences.

But the food and the chefs have a very different story to tell. It is a tale of a shared cuisine, where the names of the dishes might change, but the ingredients and methods can be wonderfully familiar. 

It is also striking how often the chefs in the film defer to their mother's and grandmother's recipes and their memories of those matriarchs of the kitchen – and of how those recipes make a mockery of national borders and racial divisions. The world that was divided by men, still seems to be united by women. There's a lot in that.

Breaking Bread is a vision of the way the world is supposed to work – and the way it does, once the politicians and the priests gain the humility and the human wisdom, to get the hell out of the way. Someone offers up the opinion that the United Nations would be a lot more effective, if they asked the chefs in the kitchens to do the talking and left the politicians to clean the pots. After watching Breaking Bread it's hard not to agree.

This is a joyous film – with some mouth-watering looking food as a bonus. Hugely recommended.

- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF

Breaking Bread is now playing at Light House Petone & Cuba!

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