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Forget the Popcorn: The Fourth Annual New York Food Film Festival

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Still From Joe York's Film Still From Joe York's Film "Smokes and Ears" (Joe York)

It's happened before – the shot of the steaming stir fry, a close-up of a succulent meatball, bird's eye view of a juicy slice of pie.  You're at the movies and, bam, you’re starving.

This week, the fourth annual Food Film Festival comes to New York. So for once, you won’t have to leave the theater hungry.

The brainchild of filmmaker George Motz and chef Henry Hawk, the Food Film Festival began when Motz and Hawk got together to screen Motz’s documentary Hamburger America while Hawk cooked up the featured burgers for a moderate and unfocused crowd (Motz says people would stumble in and ask if they could put on Goodfellas). 

This year the festival is combines a collection of food trucks, a day of Southeast Asian street food and films that range from "food porn" to feature-length examinations of multi-billion dollar industries.

In the interest of putting down the popcorn and picking up some oysters, grits or a pig’s blood popsicle, here are some highlights and trailers from this year’s festival.

As the trailer suggests, the legendary meatpacking district diner Florent was the place where a motley crowd studded with big-name celebrities spent their pre-dawn hours.  Until its closure in 2008, restaurant owner Florent Morellet made sure the restaurant wasn't simply a place to eat  steak frites. It was a meeting place for gay rights and AIDS activists.  Items from the original menu will be served - nostalgia on the side.

Every summer barbecue usually has at least one beer-crazed member of the bunch - not counting the one vomiting in the bushes.  Beer Wars takes the cameras to the small, local brewing companies led by these beer-sniffing, flower-and-fruit mentioning beer guys (and usually they are guys).  In grand summer tradition, there will be burgers, and to complete the alliteration the event will be held in Brooklyn.

Superficially, Smokes and Ears is the story of two sandwiches - the pig's ear and the hot smoked sausage - and the family-run business that's been serving them for over 70 years at The Big Apple Inn in Jackson, Mississippi (a.k.a. Big John's). Like most food stories, though, the film is about the people that make and eat the sandwiches, set against the rich musical history of the city.

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