Thursday, April 21, 2011

Talking Tribeca: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from the Tribeca Film Festival. In no particular order, I present a look at one film per day. The Tribeca Film Festival takes place April 20th through May 1st.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Directed by David Gelb
Festival Screenings

When food and culture intersect, there’s bound to be an interesting story behind it. The life of Jiro Ono, a master sushi chef who, at 85 years old, still goes to work every day and night, is a winning example of that. This fun, appetizing documentary explores Jiro’s past and follows him in his daily life as he continues to produce sushi on a regular basis that wins him prizes and legitimizes charging $300 for a dinner meal that requires reservations a month in advance. The film’s best asset is its subject, Jiro, who is positively charming and equally respectable. He struts around confidently and makes sure to praise the efforts and contributions of his underlings, all the while ensuring that their commitment to making incredible sushi is never compromised. Jiro’s back story is intriguing, and it’s quite enlightening to hear him talk about it. When his sons are interviewed about their career paths and how they’ll always be compared to him, it speaks to Japanese culture and the importance of lineage and ancestral respect. What’s most moving about “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is the way one food critic gushes with appropriate admiration over Jiro’s technique, style, and food. As an expert, he clearly knows what he’s talking about, and it makes the film all the more meaningful to hear him so praised. The film has its best moments when it features its hero onscreen, as it manages to cover an extraordinary breadth of topics in just eighty minutes, and every time Jiro pops back up, the film instantly becomes more engaging anew. It earns extra points for making this non-fan of sushi salivate for some tuna.

See it or skip it? See it. It’s impossible not to like, even if you don’t like documentaries or sushi.

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