Barbecue is about more than grilling a piece of meat. It’s a ritual performed religiously across the world. For some it’s a path to salvation. It is the pride of nations. And the stories told around the fires become a way to bring the world together.
Barbecue is a grand vision of humanity unified by our most common and primal tradition. Captured in cinematic 4k, shot across twelve countries, and accompanied by a rich orchestral score – stories of race, class and belonging are told around the fire by families, cooks and backyard philosophers.
In barbecue we see a ritual performed religiously across the world. For some it’s a path to salvation. It is the pride of nations. It brings the world together.
In South Africa barbecue roasts over coals as people in the townships and suburbs find new ways to live together post-apartheid. In Texas, pitmasters feed the masses fuelled by pride in their craft and community. Across the border a Mexican family works through the night, surviving by sheer determination. Armenians defiantly cling to their traditions and their homeland, while exiled Syrians find new hope through shawarma stalls in a border refugee camp. In Australia a rural town rejects modern life, while in Tokyo yakitori chefs are inspired by the pulse of the city. Despite strikingly different landscapes and cultures, these intimate portraits of everyday life reveal a bold vision of humanity, as each country searches for its own answer to the question – how do we live in the world today?
The screening of Barbecue takes place on Wednesday 18th October at 6.00 pm in the “Velká Aula” hall. Free admission.
We screened your film Central Texas Barbecue at LSFF 2016. Why did you decide to set out and watch people roast meat around the world?
Growing up in Australia, I remember fondly Aussie ‘barbies’ with the family on hot summer days. I spent a lifetime being told that Australians have the best barbecue going around, that nothing in the world compares. A few decades later, my partner Rosie and I found ourselves on a road trip through Texas. We discovered the slow smoked brisket of Lockhart and Taylor. Suddenly I realized that there was more to barbecue than I previously imagined.
We started talking to people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and we quickly realised that every culture has its own form of what they would call ‘barbecue’. From khorovats to shisanyama to engangsgrill. And when we spoke to people, their eyes lit up with fiery passion. It was then that we knew we had to make Barbecue.
The subtitle of the film is: Barbecue is about more than grilling a piece of meat. How so?
The world is in a fragile state at the moment. Many people are starting to close themselves off from other cultures and perhaps shared experiences. Cooking meat over fire is a ritual found across civilizations. I believe that by studying the world through the lens of barbecue, we can find a path to understanding, and perhaps salvation. When I embarked on this film, I didn’t know what I would find. Would people be closed off and distant, or would they welcome us with open arms? As we moved through communities around the world, two things struck me: the utterly unique and fascinating differences in culture, but also the similarities and hope for humanity that binds us together. The people
we met inspired my hope for a global community.
I hope we impart to the audience that deep sense of being connected. That the world is a beautiful place. That there’s more that binds us than separates us. That even in despair we find hope. That all we need to do is sit down around the fire, and talk and eat. For all that to come from a film about barbecuing may seem absolutely ridiculous. And that’s exactly what I was going for.
During the shooting of the film you had to get really close to people and situations. How did you get to know people from so many completely different cultures?
To create this film we travelled to 12 countries, filmed over 200 days, and logged more than 75,000 miles, meeting hundreds of people along the way. One of the greatest challenges was always language, but we always found ways to communicate. I remember being driven in an old soviet truck around the steppes of Mongolia rounding up horses without our translator, me speaking in English and my new friend speaking in Mongolian. Somehow we found a way to make it work. You’d be surprised how easy it is to connect sometimes.
Our approach on this film was to adopt a very small footprint. We would always use a single guide and translator that was trusted in that community. We would rarely film in the first few days. Instead we would sit, listen to their stories, their beliefs, their hopes for their community and the world at large. Working as a crew of two allowed for very intimate and personal access into people’s lives. We had simple rules like only filming with natural light. Our intention was to work completely in their world, truthfully representing the way they live their lives. We sought to find art amongst this realism, and with patience, the beautiful moments would always reveal themselves.