Oct 2013

Video: The Perennial Plate at MAD3

Today’s video release from MAD3 is the presentation from The Perennial Plate, the Minneapolis-based filmmaking duo of Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein, who travel the world documenting all things food, from the ebullience and artistry of Massimo Bottura, to the bewildering array of things you might find on a two-week trip to China. In Copenhagen over the summer, Klein and Fine presented three films which they feel represent one of the most vital interpretations of the word “guts”: vulnerability. Watch the video of Klein’s talk above. Read below for some more thoughts from Klein about his and Fine’s process, and to view two videos they screened at the symposium.

At MAD Symposium, I talked about vulnerability, because to me that is the essence of guts, the theme of this year’s event.  Whether you’re throwing yourself in front of a throwing star to save a friend (traditional courage) or sharing your story with a stranger (emotional courage), opening yourself up takes guts. That’s what our talk was about.

At the Symposium, we shared three of our videos to make this point. The first is a director’s cut of an episode that we made specifically for MAD, which you can watch in the video above, along with my presentation. The episode we made for MAD is the story of a Sri Lankan fishing family that lost eight of its members to the Tsunami, yet continues to fish (fucking brave). You can view it towards the end of this post. The second film is about an impoverished Nomad family in the mountains of Morocco (that’ll be released next month online). The last is a film called “Faces of Turkey,” in which close-up shots of hundreds of food producers — cooks, farmers, beekeepers, fishermen — are composed into a video piece. 

Faces of Turkey from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

That film is a love letter to Turkey. We loved the country, the people, the food. We came away from the experience filled with energy. It wasn’t easy to make the movie. It took courage for us to ask these strangers if we could take intimate portraits of them, and it took a lot of courage for them to accept. When it came time to put the images together, we chose a moving song that we felt fit the experience, and crafted a story that we think is about the simple but powerful idea of universal human connectivity.

Which brings me to what I’d like to talk about: something strange happens after we post each video, specifically those about an overall experience in one country. Initially, we get a huge positive response, tons of views. But then come bits of criticism from the most unlikely of places. In Spain, we chose the wrong song; in India, we didn’t show enough of the country; and in Italy, the food choices were too pedestrian. As filmmakers putting our work onto the internet, we can get over these, because it’s part of the process, part of making art. 

But sometimes, it does hit us, and it hurts. Turkey was was one of those instances, because the film was so positive, and because we really tried to represent city folk and country folk, religious and secular — we showed the beautiful people and we showed them in the best way we could. Although the positive feedback has been enormous, many angry comments have trickled in about how these “easterners,” “Kurds,” or “country folk” don’t represent Turkey. “Where are the city folk?,” they ask, even though these city folk or “modern turks,” as the naysayers call them, are represented in spades. “Where are the nightclubs and burger bars?”

Do Not Blame the Sea - Director’s Cut from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

We created something that was way more emotional than usually is the case for us, something that could even be seen as cheesy because it cries out for the value of the human spirit. To have people come back and tell us that these people weren’t representative of a country was heartbreaking. Of course, we didn’t get to feature every type of person in Turkey, especially since the faces were the people in the food industry (who are generally poorer). But we also showed restaurant and shop owners, women who had left the finance industry in Istanbul to go back to the land, and others. We were showing faces of Turkey, but it could have been faces of the world. In the end, that didn’t seem to matter to a good number of people.

This is to say that the people in that video, whether they were Kurdish or Turkish, shared themselves proudly for a moment. They exhibited courage. And we tried to repay them with an unapologetically positive film. It hurts to receive those comments. But I do stand by the piece. I feel vulnerable, but proud.

Daniel Klein