KQED Food ‘Bay Area Bites’: Celebrate Food Day with a Feast for the Eyes

KQED Food ‘Bay Area Bites’: Celebrate Food Day with a Feast for the Eyes

Did you know this Saturday, October 24, 2015 is National Food Day? Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is a loose coalition of nationwide events that aim to “inspire Americans to change their diets and our food policies” in order to create a healthier, more sustainable approach to the way we produce and consume food.

San Francisco’s Food Day/Film Day Festival, curated by EatDrinkFilms, a local online magazine, screens four feature films — three San Francisco premieres and a beloved classic — at the Roxie Theatre in the heart of the Mission District. An additional program of shorts screens for free at the Exploratorium.

Probably the most intriguing selection in the mix is El Somni (The Dream), a Spanish film documenting the production of an immersive art experience that includes, music, dance, film, sculpture and food. (El Somni screens Saturday at 7pm.) “The Dream” in question is a “12-course opera, a 12-act banquet” prepared and performed for a lucky group of 12 participants who dine at a round table, which doubles as a video screen and is surrounded by three more. The documentary follows the event’s creators, including director Franc Aleu and the Roca Brothers, proprietors of El Celler de Can Roca (a restaurant in Girona, Spain, that has received three Michelin stars and was named best restaurant in the world by English Restaurant Magazine in 2013), alongside 40 visual, gastronomic and performing artists, as they conceive and prepare a sensual feast.

Early on we see vivid details of the event’s conceptualization. Each of the Rocas struggles to explain the ideas and emotions they want to explore within the flavors of the food. One asks, “How does the moon taste?” And the answer has something to do with ashes and truffles. Another talks about Indian spices and peppers growing in adjacent fields and thinks about the sensual harmony of color, smell and taste within a holistic environment. A third ponders the origins of life in the depths of the sea.

Dancers are motion-captured and turned into statues that crumble under the weight of overwrought emotions. A musician-engineer constructs a robotic string quintet. Metal workers create delicate silver coral serving dishes. A ceramic artist considers the delicacy of desire and makes a plate to match.

The preparation for the event is like the construction of an opera, including sets, costumes, props, music, singing, dancing, acting … and food, strange and seemingly glorious food. One diner wonders at the event’s excess; this much sensation runs the risk of failure, going too far and creating a sensual short-circuit. Other participants struggle to translate what they are feeling into words. Words fail, but overall, the film is a phantasmagoria of delicious decadence, a vision of a European art elite in pursuit of a total art experience. I can’t imagine this film screening anywhere else, so this might be your only chance to catch it in all of its avant-garde glory.