(director/writer: Fernando Grostein Andrade; screenwriters: Jacob Kader/Lameece Issaq/ based on a story by Fernando Grostein Andrade, Lameece Issaq, Jacob Kader, Christopher Vogler; cinematographer: Blasco Giurato; editors: Claudia Castello, Suzanne Spangler, Bruno Lasevicius; music: Pedro Lima; cast: Noah Schnapp (Abe), Seu George (Chico), Salem Murphy (Aida), Mark Margolis (Benjamin), Dagmara Dominczyk (Rebecca), Arian Moayed (Amir), Tom Mardirosian (Salim), Daniel Oreskes (Ari), Alexander Hodge (Roy Wang); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Carlos Eduardo Ciampolini, Noberto Pinheiro Jr., Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane; Blue Fox Entertainment; 2019-USA/Brazil-in English, Hebrew, Arabic)
“It’s based on a gimmicky story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
LA-based Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Grostein Andrade (“Quebrando o Tabu”), in his first narrative film not a documentary, is the writer-director of this fusion foodie friendly family drama. It’s based on a gimmicky story by Andrade, Lameece Issaq, Jacob Kader and Christopher Vogler.
It’s set in Brooklyn and is about a 12-year-old named Abe (Noah Schnapp) dealing with a difficult family situation. Abe’s not religious Palestinian Muslim father Amir (Arian Moayed) is married to his Israeli religious Jewish mother Rebecca (Dagmara Dominczyk). Both his grandparents come over to his apartment every evening and argue over religious and political matters.
Abe’s obsession is cooking. He even has a cooking blog. His aim in cooking is to unite the two sides of the family, Jewish and Muslim, by cooking fusion style. The kid wants to please both sides of his family, as he desires to fast for Ramadan and have a bar mitzvah.
The kid’s parents indulge his cooking interests by enrolling him in a summer cooking camp for children. But the cooking classes are too basic for him, so he sneaks out of camp and heads back to Brooklyn. There he has discovered just the cooking teacher he desires, a charismatic transplanted Brazillian named Chico (Seu George), a self-taught chef who operates a creative food stand in the street. Chico decides to make the kid his apprentice without realizing he’s a kid and would need his parents approval.
To add drama to a film that has none, the kid’s parents are alarmed when notified he ran away from the camp. Meanwhile we get to watch the child chef prodigy learn how to peel a yucca the right way (which has eluded me till now) and observe him as he concocts several mouthwatering dishes, which tells us he should have a good career in that field if he doesn’t muck things up.
The film goes to great pains to show how difficult it is to be growing up in such an uptight atmosphere, where both sides of his heritage have been at war with each other for such a long time. Over dinner with his Jewish maternal grandfather (Mark Margolis) and Uncle Ari (Daniel Oreskes), Abe is permitted to sample the wine. But on the Muslim side alcohol is forbidden, and his grandparents (Salem Murphy and Tom Mardirosian) are not bashful offering their disapproving opinion of such behavior. Oy vez!
Food is used as the simple metaphor that if you mix Palestinian and Israeli ingredients and make an original dish, you can change our eating habits and also the hostility between both sides. I would love to believe this could be true, but in reality it’s not.
It’s a sweet film that means well, and Noah Schnapp knows how to play a kid who can be pleasing and show his true emotions without being oily. But please, I have no trouble buying into the kid wanting to be a creative chef for peace, I just don’t believe it’s through cooking that pleases both sides that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be solved. Peace will come only when both sides can find a way to become partners and find a way to live with each other without hatred.
REVIEWED ON 4/22/2020 GRADE: C+