SLOW FOOD WORLD – The Audiovisual Culture of Food

Food is culture. I don’t think there can be many places where it is more appropriate to make that statement than here at the International Slow Food Congress, held in Naples on November 7 and 8. The whole issue of taste education – one of the cornerstones of our movement’s philosophy – is part and parcel of the food equals culture equation. Since it is something we can share with others, it is inevitable that we take a great interest in art forms that lead us to think about food as a carrier of identity, separating it from its function of merely providing sustenance. Eating doesn’t just mean topping up with fuel but it is also an important cultural activity. Food and cuisine are complex and ancient languages which everyone can speak but few can transform into art, just as poetry is a gift reserved for a few users of language.

And what about cinema? What has the most important art form of the last century got to say about food?

Many of you probably know some of the most well-known food movies, they are always the same ones: Babette’s Feast; Big Night; Eat, Drink, Man, Woman; Tampopo, Vatel, Like Water for Chocolate … We can extend the list to 20 or 30, and add a number of single sequences, but it is clear that it isn’t a long list or a hugely interesting one.

Given this situation – and with the additional incentive of the imminent opening of the University of Gastronomic Science in Pollenzo – a small festival of shorts held in Bra, Italy, decided to approach Slow Food to jointly create a festival of short films dedicated to the love of food. This resulted in the Slow Food on Film event, with the first edition being held in Bra in April 2002.

The basic concept underlying this unique festival was to bring awareness and recognition to the cultural aspects of food – to exercise the brain as well as the stomach, to stimulate eyes and palate. It was necessary to encourage new perspectives on the relationship between humans and food, seeking them elsewhere than mainstream cinema, which has produced films like the ones mentioned above. It was important to promote a type of cinema which was less subject to constraints – whether affecting production, creativity or culture – in other words, turning to the more adventurous and experimental genre of ‘shorts’.

The new marriage of food and short films celebrated in Bra last April turned out, as is often the case with ventures which seem riskiest on paper, to be a good blend in practice.

What is more, it was a great success. Created from the collaboration of Short Film in Bra and Slow Food (as a sponsor), the opening edition of the “First World Festival for Short Films Dedicated to the Love of Food” hosted 21 films from 9 countries.

The jury – chaired by the great Hollywood character actor Vincent Schiavelli – awarded the Golden Snail to the Italian film Peperoni and an Honorable Mention to the American film Oyster Guanaca.

The encouraging debut of the International Festival of Short Film in Bra saw full attendances, universal acclaim, great press reviews, a warm friendly atmosphere, ‘film dinners’ and international guests giving their support.

The films were then offered to the Copia Museum in Napa, United States, and to the Mescolanze Food Festival in Rovereto, Trentino, Italy. Many international TV food channels have also expressed interest in our films.

The event is being held again from 21 to 25 April 2004. This time it is being expanded with the addition of a new international festival for short documentaries dedicated to the memory of food, Slow Food on Film Doc. The official notice and entry form can be accessed on-line (in Italian and English) at
This time there are two international competitions being sponsored by Slow Food:

Slow Food on Film, which awards the Golden Snail (and 5,000 euros) to the best short fiction film (no longer than 30 minutes) with food as its central theme. It may describe food as the expression of culture or knowledge, of technique, as a symbolic aspect of social condition, or as a magical and/or romantic vision of life… The subject may also be approached through a view of food as passion and/or obsession, as a source of sacred or profane veneration and/or devotion…

Slow Food on Film DOC, which awards the Golden Snail (and a prize of 2,500 euros) to the best short documentary (no longer than 30 minutes) dedicated to the memory of food.

Film makers are being asked to recreate awareness of an ancient recipe, a rare agricultural product headed for extinction or a gastronomic tradition that is dying out, through an audiovisual account. With the collaboration of the creators of these films, we aim to set up an international archive of stories about the ‘the savvy of savor’, to preserve a part of our identity which is slipping away. We also want to work together with the University of Pollenzo in creating an audiovisual library containing all these small size but big impact stories.

This competition is not so much interested in form as in meaning and content. We wish to bring to public and media attention stories like those of the small farmers, shepherds and fishermen who receive the Slow Food Award every year. We need your help to do this.

I know it is not long until the closing date of December 31, but I do hope that some of you will decide to get directly involved in this venture.

Stefano Sardo is artistic director of Slow Food on Film

Adapted by Ronnie Richards

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