The Tribeca Film Festival is about movies, sure. And movie stars. And it’s definitely about Robert De Niro and his quest to give back to the downtown Manhattan neighborhood he has called home for many years. But it’s also very much about food—for proof, just check out the official Eat & Drink Guide on the festival’s website (which, of course, includes a few eateries in which Bobby has a stake, like Nobu and Tribeca Grill…may we humbly recommend Tamarind Tribeca and Khe-Yo instead?).
To further solidify this marriage of grub and celluloid, the festival has a strong lineup of food-focused movies for its 13th edition, which kicks off tonight and runs through April 27th. Here are five food nerd-worthy flicks to check out at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Read up, then get your tickets here.
Actor-director Jon Favreau delivered a generation-defining film with Swingers in 1996, and he’s attempting to capture the zeitgeist again—this time with a foodie bent—in the aptly titled Chef. Favreau plays a chef whose Twitter feud with a famous critic lands him on the restaurant black list. Fueled by a passion for cooking but out of any employment prospects, he heads to Miami to open a food truck and go back to his roots.
Why you should watch it: We’re not complaining that the majority of contemporary food movies focus more on the politics of eating. But there’s always room for another Big Night, and Chef is certainly reminiscent of that classic flick—not only because it’s an indie movie with an all-star pedigree (Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Sofia Vergara), but because it’s essentially big-screen food porn. (Photo: Photo: Open Road Films)
This sentence may be the first time that the words “Eva Longoria” and “hard-hitting” have been mentioned in the same breath (at least in polite company). But the adjective is warranted and we all have the former Desperate Housewife to thank for that. Food Chains may not be the first documentary to advocate for this country’s farm workers, but it presents the core issue—that America’s 10,000 farm laborers are subjected to slave-like conditions—with impressive clarity. Even better, it offers a solution.
Why you should watch it: Enough people were interested in the film’s message that its creators were able to raise nearly $35,000 on Kickstarter to complete the project (far exceeding their $27,000 goal). The main thesis is that it’s up the country’s consumers to solve the problem by being conscience of where their food comes from and willing to pony up an extra penny if it means that one more laborer can rise above the poverty line. (Photo: Photo: Foodchainsfilm.com)
You’ve eaten his hot dogs. Now, it’s time to get to know the namesake behind the century-old Coney Island culinary institution known as Nathan’s Famous. Leading the way is filmmaker Lloyd Handwerker, who just so happens to be the grandson of “Famous” Nathan himself. As a result, he has unprecedented access to rare archival footage and an intimate knowledge of the man behind a frankfurter empire.
Why you should watch it: Famous Nathan is about more than just hot dogs. It’s about how a simple, beloved foodstuff helped one man achieve the American Dream. (Photo: Facebook)
The Search for General Tso
Just as surely as you’ll be handed a fortune cookie at the end of your meal, you’ll find General Tso’s chicken on the menu of just about every Chinese restaurant in America. But just who was General Tso? And how did his signature chicken recipe land in the hands of, well, pretty much everyone? King Corn producer Ian Cheney hops into the director’s chair for this fascinating—and frequently funny—journey to Shanghai and Hunan to investigate how that iconic dish was born.
Why you should watch it: General Tso’s is one of the most iconic examples of Americanized ethnic specialties. It’s back story reflects the fascinating ways in which food traditions change when they cross borders. (Photo: Facebook)
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
From its basic description, Supermensch—which details the life and adventures of Hollywood super-agent Shep Gordon—may not appear to have much to do with food. But then you realize that the man in charge of Alice Cooper’s career is the same guy who made celebrity chef part of the popular lexicon. The 1993 New York Times article, “The Man Who Would Turn Chefs Into Household Names,” serves as a perfect primer for comedian Mike Myers’ directorial debut, in which he pays tribute to the Hollywood playmaker who believed that chefs were ready for their close-ups.
Why you should watch it: Like it or not, celebrity chefs are here to stay. And now you know who to thank (or blame) for that. (Photo: TribecaFilm.com)