To prepare you for 21st year of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, completely virtual-for-the-first time as you’ve never seen before, we bring you 21 previews spotlighting the breath of films offered for your home viewing. The films, which represent more than half of those in the AJFF lineup Feb. 17-28, include classics, intimate family dramas, upbeat comedy and historic documentaries. Sit back and relax as the AJFF brings us together through film.
The documentary film “Breaking Bread” begins with a quote from the late Anthony Bourdain stating, “Food may not be the answer to world peace, … but it’s a start.” The idea of bridging cultural divides through collaborative food ventures (aka ‘cuisine diplomacy’) is not new, but in the hands of first-time director Beth Elise Hawk’s film, the focus shifts from the food itself to social commentary.
The film’s protagonist, Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s “Master Chef” competition, founded the A-Sham ‘Levantine’ food festival in Haifa, a city where Arabs and Jews coexist peacefully. The annual December festival pairs up Jewish and Arab (Muslim, Christian and Druze) chefs who are tasked with working together to transform traditional Arab recipes into creative, modern dishes that harken back to their roots.
In addition to Dr. Atamna-Ismaeel, the film features other noteworthy chefs including a Jewish-Arab couple, an Alawite Muslim from the Golan Heights, and another Arab from Acre, who opened a restaurant in Tel Aviv. The film is punctuated by interviews with these chefs, tracing their family histories, their culinary evolutions, as well as their personal experiences with the ‘other.’ While some expected Jewish-Arab clichés are voiced, most of the chefs are articulate and offer interesting perspectives on life in Israel.
Besides the beguiling images of food, the film serves up (pun intended) optimism; it becomes apparent early on that the tantalizing aromas and tastes of mouth-watering food leave little room for religion or politics in the kitchen. Overall, “Breaking Bread” is both satisfying and insightful, visually arresting and inspiring. If you’re like me, you’ll try and plan your next visit to Israel so that it coincides with this mouthwatering food festival.