4 December, 2022, 00:39

Film Fest Tucson 2022: Celebrating cinema, community & food culture

Lights, Camera ... Eat!

Ah, autumn. It’s the time of year when Tucsonans shake off their summer somnolence and emerge to take part in the city’s vibrant array of festivals, a number involving food or movies.

On Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, those two popular interests converge at Film Fest Tucson, where several selections celebrate culinary culture.

Jennifer Teufel, entrepreneur and inveterate foodie, co-founded Film Fest Tucson with longtime friend and business partner Herb Stratford in 2015. She and Stratford, who was instrumental in restoring downtown’s Fox Tucson Theatre and who is a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, are the festival’s co-directors.

Film Fest Tucson 2022

Photo courtesy of Film Fest Tucson 2022

“When we started the fest, the first thing we proclaimed was, ‘The popcorn must be freshly popped and always free!’ So you can see where my priorities are,” said Teufel.

Teufel explained why food and film go so well together. “Both are about communal storytelling, about who we are and who we aspire to be,” she said. “Both film and food are different ways of understanding ourselves, our own culture, and that of others. It is through these different forms of storytelling that we can share our past, our present, or where we want to go.”

What’s the benefit of attending film festivals as opposed to watching movies on the comfort of your own couch? “I find that we are more open and curious when we share these things as a community,” said Teufel.

Although food — producing it, cooking it, eating it, robbing stores that sell it — has a cameo role in several of the festival’s entries, it is the undisputed star of two of them: “The Keepers of Corn” and the sneak peek episode of “Somebody Feed Phil.”

The Keepers of Corn/Los Guardianes del Maíz

Photo courtesy of The Keepers of Corn/Los Guardianes del Maíz

Photo courtesy of The Keepers of Corn/Los Guardianes del Maíz

Tracing the story of native corn, this Mexican film time-travels back to the dawn of agriculture and forward to the present and future of this essential crop, now in peril because of widespread genetic modification practices as well as climate change. Indigenous farmers, artisans, and cooks, along with community leaders and scientists, tell this important story in Spanish and in the many native tongues of those who shepherd the corn on its journey.

Chef Maria Mazon, of BOCA by Chef Maria Mazon and “Top Chef” fame, will be on hand after the screening to chat about the film with the audience and answer questions.

The showing of “The Keepers of Corn” in Tucson is particularly meaningful in several ways. Its venerable agricultural history and commitment to preserving native crops are among the reasons Tucson was designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015. And the debut of Pueblos Del Maiz Fiesta earlier this year brought together four designated food heritage cities – Tucson and San Antonio in the U.S. and Merida and Puebla in Mexico – for month-long celebrations of corn.

For more information about this film, visit filmfesttucson.org.

Somebody Feed Phil

Photo courtesy of Somebody Feed Phil / Netflix

Photo courtesy of Somebody Feed Phil / Netflix

As anyone who has watched the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil ” knows, Phil Rosenthal is a delightful dining companion. The creator and showrunner of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and of his current travel/food series, Rosenthal brings his wonderfully inquisitive and charmingly self-deprecating personality to the task of eating his way around the world’s great culinary destinations. Tucsonans will not only get a world premiere of an episode of his show (hint: it’s set in Serbia), but will also have the opportunity to enjoy a Q & A with Rosenthal afterwards.

For more information about this film, visit filmfesttucson.org

Other Foodie Films

Food scenes have always been a key to conveying atmosphere and character in films. Three other Film Fest entries are not explicitly food-centric but culinary culture plays an important role in them.

Last Film Show

Photo courtesy of Last Film Show

Photo courtesy of Last Film Show

In “Last Film Show,” set in a remote Indian village, nine-year-old Samay becomes besotted with movies to the extent that he skips school to watch them. Not only is this coming-of-age film rich with local market scenes, but young Samay bribes the cinema’s projectionist with elaborate lunches in order to get free admission.

For more information about this film, visit filmfesttucson.org

Four Samosas

Photo courtesy of Four Samosas

Photo courtesy of Four Samosas

Its name notwithstanding, “Four Samosas” is not about fried Indian delicacies but about a wannabe rap star and his three friends who plan to rob a grocery store owned by his ex-girlfriend’s father. This combination of heist film and rom-com, set in the Little India neighborhood of Los Angeles, is steeped in South Asian culture – which of course involves plenty of eating.

“This very funny and sweet film, full of terrific new characters, seems destined to be a cult classic along the lines of “Napoleon Dynamite,’” said Teufel.

For more information about this film, visit filmfesttucson.org

The Pez Outlaw

Photo courtesy of The Pez Outlaw

Photo courtesy of The Pez Outlaw

Another food-adjacent film, “The Pez Outlaw” tells the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale of Steven Glew. Bored with his machinist job and short of money, Glew began selling the toys put as prizes in cereal boxes before progressing to the far more lucrative business of purveying Pez dispensers only available overseas. It’s a wonderfully twisty and hilarious international tale of a little guy eluding the huge corporation headed by – wait for it – a man calling himself The Pezident.

Bonus: The first 150 people to buy tickets for the film will get a free Pez dispenser, replete with candy.

For more information about this film, visit filmfesttucson.com.

Let’s Eat — and Commune!

The festival’s venues are in the dining hubs of downtown and Main Gate Square, so filmgoers will have plenty of opportunities to satisfy any hunger pangs the screen action might spur. See the “Where to Eat” page of the Film Fest’s website to find some top local spots to chow down in both areas.

But wait, there’s more.

From 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 15, fun and local eats will be on hand near the lawn of the Children’s Museum Tucson, where “Keepers of Corn” will be screened for free. Among the offerings: sweet corn ice cream with a shard of chamoy brittle, created by HUB Ice Cream Parlor expressly for this year’s festival.

“If we’re lucky, there will be a bit of Tajín Clasico dusted on top,” said Teufel.

Fun and local members of the Tucson Foodie staff will also be on hand in this area. Be sure to come over and chat with us, though we might have our mouths full with movie-related treats — including the free and freshly popped popcorn.

For more information on all of the films participating in this year’s festival, visit filmfesttucson.org

Edie Jarolim’s dining stories have appeared in a variety of national and local publications. The food biz runs in her family: Her great uncle was Sigmund Freud’s butcher.