Peter Kerekes: Cooking History

For a documentary veteran viewer it is pure pleasure, when you watch a film that gives you surprises you in structure, narration and content. I knew that Slovak/Hungarian Peter Kerekes after his wonderful ”66 Seasons” was working on a big budget film on a somewhat crazy subject: How did they cook for the soldiers on the front, what did they eat, under which circumstances, war and food… but I had no real idea on how he would materialise his idea and construct his film. I must say that I am amazed how innovative and playful and funny and moving and clever and original this great film is.

Chaptered it is – the prologue refers to Chechnya, then follows WW2 battles between Germany and Russia, post-WW2, Hungary 1956, Prague 1968, Balkan wars and much more –  told through interviews, b/w archive material, and reconstructions of soldiers on the fields and the best of all: the staging of the cooks with their transportable kitchen making food for the viewers. Placed – as the example in the epilogue – in the water, or in front of a ruin, or in other situations referring to where the battles took place.

But first of all Kerekes demonstrates again his enormous talent for (old) people. He has a brilliant gallery of characters who bring out their memories in a fresh and often humorous manner. Sometimes it is comedy, sometimes it is subtle and sometimes provocative. Storytellers they are, like the woman, who made blini pancakes for the Russian soldiers, and if they did not come home the pancakes were brought to be placed on the tombstone at the cemetery. And of course Kerekes takes the old lady to this venue and asks her several times – out of camera – why? The same old lady tells us in the kitchen that during the siege of Leningrad, there was 100g bread, two thin slices per person per day. In this moment she can’t stand talking about it any longer. Cut to the German baker who is likewise moved by thinking back… The excellent editing, according to the ”open structure” that the dramaturg of the film Jan Gogola always cleverly promotes, this editing is made so the characters, often on both sides of the wars, have a kind of dialogue with each other. That’s all, watch that film, get it to the audience, it is for everybody, for heart and brain.

Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, 2009, 88 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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