Flatirons Food Film Festival

Movies about food make us want to eat.

This weekend, prepare to be hungry. The Flatirons Food Film Festival is an annual feast celebrating exceptional culinary cinema. It screens an array of films, both dramatic and documentary, covering political and cultural topics as well as the sheer pleasures of cooking, eating, and drinking. Expert speakers and related events accompany the films.

Take last night’s screening of East Side Sushi, a low-budget crowd pleaser about a Latina single mom in Oakland, CA who seeks to become a sushi chef. Writer-director-editor Anthony Lucero’s cross-cultural story charmed regional film festival goers when it debuted in 2014. The Boulder crowd at the Nomad Theater was likewise taken with the movie, a character-driven underdog story that is part culture-clash, part gender-battle, but all heart.

“We loved this film last year but the timing didn’t work out for us to screen it,” explains Julia Joun, festival director . “It was the first film we booked this year.”

Mr. Lucero was on hand to introduce the film and provide its backstory in a cozy Q and A afterwards that included the harrowing nature of capturing sushi on film.

“The lights discolor it and the crew just wants to eat it,” he said with a laugh. “Sushi is beautiful and artistic but it’s outrageously expensive to shoot.”

Despite this Mr. Lucero managed to make a visual feast of a movie, abounding in shots of bright fish, perfect rice and lavish rolls, an exquisite backdrop to his multi-layered story that was simultaneously ambitious and unassuming.

Made with almost no money, East Side Sushi was a purely creative pursuit for Mr. Lucero, a Hollywood visual effects pro who created much of the film while holding down his full time job with Lucas Films. Oakland’s Coach Sushi provided the restaurant location free of charge, Mr. Lucero’s sister provided her apartment, and his mother and brothers fed the crew. Actors were sourced locally in Oakland, with the exception of the film’s lead character Juana, played by Diana Elizabeth Torres, who gave an honest performance that was by turns funny, warm, and riveting.

Juana’s determination to break out of her Mexican-American cultural confines by breaking into the male-dominated Japanese art form plays out at a pace that highlights quiet desperation, small victories and great food.

“I wanted to take a small story and turn it into something epic,” Mr. Lucero said.

Indeed. The story played in my head as I fell asleep and was my first thought this morning. That’s the kind of film this is.

The Flatirons Food Film Festival continues throughout the weekend with a full slate of movies and conversation that will stoke and satisfy your appetite.

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