Not coming to a theatre near you, but now available online are two terrific Sundance Selects documentaries that you can stream (Amazon Prime video) and/or purchase (iTunes Store, Google Play and more).
“Ants on a Shrimp” sounds strange, right? Well it’s a beautiful film about superstar chef Rene Redzepi, whose Michelin two-star restaurant Noma was named world’s best in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 by Restaurant Magazine. And “Kampai! For the Love of Sake” is a celebratory film about the culture of Japan’s national beverage, the fermented rice wine known as sake.
Situated in an old warehouse on Copenhagen’s waterfront, Noma’s focus has been on reinventing Nordic cuisine, with food found in the sea and foraged from the forests of Scandinavia, featuring such dishes as moss cooked in chocolate, sweet lobster in lavender and rose oil, or rhubarb with seaweed.
It’s all about the presentation, the care put into the collection and combining of ingredients, and most especially the creativity of the chef and the cooks who make an artwork of every dish.
Noma will close in December this year and Redzepi has been doing “pop-ups” in Sydney, Australia (earlier this year), England in 2012 and in 2015, he took the crew to Japan, and that’s what this film documents.
Redzepi doesn’t try to repeat his Nordic cuisine but rather spends much time in advance of each temporary restaurant researching in the fields, forests and coasts with his crew, tasting, experimenting with and creating tastes that are uniquely regional to wherever they are.
A note from Redzepi about moving to Japan for two months said: “Although our entire staff will move to Tokyo, we’ll leave our ingredients at home. Rather we’ll bring our mindset and sensibilities to the best of pristine winter produce from all over Japan.”
Taking up residence in the restaurant on the 37th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Tokyo, the film follows the crew in the kitchen and in the wild, tasting not just fruit, vegetables, fowl and fish but leaves of trees and the branches themselves, all to be incorporated into a highly-praised, one-of-a-kind 14 course menu that tens of thousands of people tried to get a reservation for. Only a lucky few did.
The movie’s namesake, “Ants on a Shrimp” (jumbo shrimp with “flavors of the Nagano forest” — otherwise known as ants) opened the menu. Redzepi took the iconic ingredients of Japanese cooking, including tofu, kombu, miso and uni among others and completely transformed them with radical combinations of ingredients.
It’s not just about the food, though – it’s about the drama, the stress, the thought processes and the passions of the entire crew and their commitment to making this once-in-a-lifetime experience a complete success. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at a food world visionary and a mouthwatering showcase for some of the most adventurous cuisine on the planet.
When Noma closes, Redzepi plans to open a state-of-the-art urban farm on the outskirts of Copenhagen and with it a new Noma by the end of 2017, if all goes well.
Look for “Ants on a Shrimp” at http://www.releases.com/p/ants-on-a-shrimp/vod or keep an eye out on your streaming services for upcoming cable TV showings.
SAKE IT TO ME
“Kampai” is Japanese for “cheers,” and that’s what you’ll feel like doing after viewing this film about Japan’s renowned fermented rice wine, known as sake.
In the same way that artisan and small batch craft beers have been attracting serious attention and gaining traction, sake is breaking out of traditional molds to meet a new demand in the marketplace for unique brands and flavors.
We meet two westerners as well as traditional Japanese brewers who are reinvigorating this ancient beverage for a modern market. John Gauntner from Ohio landed in Japan out of curiosity and simply never left, falling in love with sake and the culture surrounding it. Now he’s a renowned expert, who is a “sake evangelist,” running seminars and speaking widely about sake.
Philip Harper, originally from Cornwall (England), is the only non-Japanese master brewer of sake (“toji”) in the country, who came to Japan in 1988 to teach English and fell into sake brewing almost by accident. Now he’s a highly-regarded author, speaker and master brewer of sake with the Kinoshita brewery.
The film also gives us a look at two Japanese brewers, Daisuke Suzuki, whose brewery was destroyed in the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami (he is rebuilding) and the very jolly and creative Kosuke Kuji, who runs his family business Nanbu Bijin Brewery, and has taught the sake industry how to succeed by breaking the rules.
Look for the film at https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/kampai!-for-the-love-of-sake/id1137053549 and on video-on-demand and streaming services like Sundance Now.
TAMAYO AT LATIN AMERICAN MASTERS
Mexican master Rufino Tamayo is rightfully regarded as one of the most important Latin American painters of the 20th century. And his skills as a graphic artist are unparalleled. In his lifetime he produced more than 350 graphic works.
On view now at Latin American Masters at Bergamot Station, you’ll find fifteen examples of Tamayo’s work, from rare lithographs, to mixed-media etchings, and hand colored Mixographs, created mostly since the mid 1970s, when he discovered new techniques and began producing some of his finest graphic pieces.
These works are beautiful, colorful and seductive. Visit them in person through September 17. They’re a vacation for your eyes. Latin American Masters is located at Bergamot Art Station. For info: www.latinamericanmasters.com or call (310) 829-4455.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at email@example.com.