Reel Time with Sister Rose

Breaking Bread

Anthony Bourdain, the beloved food pilgrim and writer, once said, “Food may not be the answer to world peace, but at least it’s a start.” The Israeli version of Britain’s MasterChef premiered in 2010 to great acclaim. In 2014, Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel—a microbiologist, chef, wife, and mother of three from a town in northern Israel—became the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s most-watched Sunday show. A year later, she cofounded the A-Sham Arabic Food Festival in Haifa. This superb documentary tells the story of the festival that pairs Muslim, Jewish, and Christian chefs collaborating to bring back dishes that have gone extinct or those “with a lot of meaning.”

Atamna-Ismaeel believes that “there is no room for politics in the kitchen” and sets out to prove it by modeling peace between people who are often thought to be at odds. She believes that the world sees Israel as 90 percent conflict. The reality, however, is that the country is made up of community and fellowship.

I first saw Breaking Bread at the 2019 Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival and was overwhelmed by the beauty of American producer/director Beth Elise Hawk’s immersion into Arab-Israeli cuisine at the food festival. From the beginning, you are drawn in and transported to another place by the mouthwatering visuals of something as simple as making hummus, which, if you have ever visited the Middle East, never tastes the same twice.

Now making its theatrical premiere in US theaters, this documentary is a celebration of food, humanity, and the willingness to live in peace built on mutual respect and art. Because the chefs were paired off before filming began, there is an authenticity to their interactions and passion for food, rather than the artificial construction of reality television shows in this country. The food festival is about collaboration—not competition.

Hawk explained in one interview that Atamna-Ismaeel is aware of the conflict between Arabs and Jews. “They are aware of this and know that what transpired at the A-Sham Festival was the antithesis of politics, where food was the great equalizer, a unifier rather than divider. I tried my best to be sensitive to the cultural nuances of both sides and maintain a balance in the structure (without affecting the film’s integrity), as much as possible in postproduction.”

The resulting film, a delight for the eyes and the heart, feels so inviting that Haifa may become a destination for foodies everywhere.

Not yet rated, No objectionable material.

last looks movie

Last Looks

Charlie (Charlie Hunnam) moves around his aging trailer on a remote lot near Idlewild, California, listening to the narration of the short film The Story of Stuff, about how consumerism is destroying the earth. After leaving a successful career as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department in a fog of shame, Charlie has changed his life. He now only has 100 possessions. When he gets something new, he gets rid of something else.

His life of solitude is disrupted when a former colleague, Lorena (Morena Baccarin), shows up to entice Charlie to help her solve the murder of the wife of a famous British actor, Alastair Pinch (Mel Gibson), who plays a judge on television. Charlie refuses to help, and she leaves. Soon he is convinced by some nefarious characters to find Lorena because she stole a thumb drive from them and is now missing.

Last Looks is directed by Tim Kirkby and scripted by Howard Michael Gould, who based it on his 2018 novel of the same name. The opening sequence got my attention because it starts out as a terrific expos é on the consequences of consumption. Then the narrative veers off into a disjointed, film noir knockoff: a tale of cops, studio heads, movie stars, murder, criminals, and a reluctant hero. Charlie’s minimalist lifestyle is the running joke throughout the film. Gibson, in a supporting role, comports himself well, as if to let us know he has cleaned up his act in real life. It is entertaining enough with some funny moments.

Not yet rated, R, Some language, bullying, suicide references, verbal violence.

the tender bar movie

The Tender Bar

In the 1970s, Dorothy (Lily Rabe) returns to her parents’ home on Long Island with her 9-year-old son, JR (played at different ages by Daniel Ranieri and Tye Sheridan), after her marriage falls apart. She joins her aging parents and other siblings who have returned home with their kids for similar reasons. As Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) says, “It’s crowded.”

Charlie owns a bar called The Tender Bar and teaches young JR valuable life lessons over the years. He encourages him to become a writer, though Dorothy wants him to go to Yale and become a lawyer. The film is directed by Oscar-winner George Clooney with the screenplay by William Monahan.

This is a gentle story about a bartender who loves unconditionally. The only distracting thing about the film is that the amazing and promising actor who plays the young JR looks nothing like JR as a young man.

Not yet rated, R, Pervasive language, sexual references, mature themes.

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