Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Alice Waters Throws Chez Panisse Feast for Sauper's SFIFF Film 'We Come as Friends'

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood May 1, 2014 at 6:22AM

The phone rings with an invite to a special dinner at Chez Panisse tonight. I'm on deadline, at home, hoping to finish a piece before I drive over to the first full day of the 57th Annual San Francisco Film Festival. I'm determined to make it in by the 3 p.m. screening of "We Come as Friends," by Hubert Sauper. Chef Alice Waters, it seems, met Sauper at the Berlin Film Festival in February, loved "We Come as Friends," and is hosting a dinner in his honor. "Yes, of course, thank you so much, I'll see you there."
0
'We Come as Friends'
'We Come as Friends'

The phone rings with an invite to a special dinner at Chez Panisse tonight.  I'm on deadline, at home, hoping to finish a piece before I drive over to the first full day of the 57th Annual San Francisco Film Festival. I'm determined to make it in by the 3 p.m. screening of "We Come as Friends," by Hubert Sauper.  

Alice Waters, it seems, met Sauper at the Berlin Film Festival in February, loved "We Come as Friends," and is hosting a dinner in his honor. "Yes, of course, thank you so much, I'll see you there." 

Noah Cowan, Hubert Sauper and Barney Broomfield
Noah Cowan, Hubert Sauper and Barney Broomfield

I was entertained, engaged, and horrified by his witty, ironic, and moving "Darwin's Nightmare," Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 2006, and winner of the 2006 Cesar for Best First Film, nominally about the voracious Nile perch, which took over Lake Victoria in central Africa, but actually about the pernicious effects of globalization.  "We Come as Friends" was also filmed in Africa, in the Sudan, once the continent's largest country, now divided in two warring nations.

As I'll be staying in Berkeley, I watch "We Come as Friends" online. Not my favorite way to watch a movie, but I am entranced by its beautiful images in service of an ugly reality.  Sauper and his filmmaking colleagues hopscotch across the Sudan in a comical-looking tiny homemade airplane, collecting stories both painful and absurd about the oil and mineral riches that flow out of the Sudan, leaving many of the inhabitants of the war-torn nations impoverished and oppressed -- by well-meaning missionaries as well as greedy international businessman and power-drunk politicians.

Come 8 p.m., I join an eclectic crowd of filmmakers and film lovers in the upstairs Cafe at Chez Panisse: as well as Alice, Hubert, and his co-director and cinematographer Barney Broomfield; Noah Cowan, the new Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society; Davia Nelson, SF-based radio and TV producer; B. Ruby Rich, film theorist and UC Santa Cruz professor; singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman, who's a famed film buff; and Mark Danner, UC Berkeley professor and prolific writer on politics and foreign affairs, and his wife Michelle.  It seems that I am the only one without a personal website. Just an old-fashioned girl…

We sip Alice's favorite Bandol Tempier Rose before being shoehorned into the largest table in the room, a tight squeeze, since we've been joined by a charming young man, Jessey White-Cinis, who's flown in from NYC to surprise his friend Barney, and Anuradha Mittal, the founder and Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank, who provided Sauper with background information for the film.  

There are 14 of us. Alice gaily says, "This is more than we've ever had at this table, even for New Year's Eve!" I have seen her hosting notables including Peter Sellars and Jane Fonda (not, I think, on the same evening). Alice has ordered pizzas for the table: one topped with stinging nettles -- something of a misnomer, since the prickly nettles grow harmless with cooking -- and fresh ricotta, the other with tomato sauce, spicy merguez sausage, and sharp, toothy wild rocket, aka arugula.  There are bowls of assorted olives, good Acme bread and butter, and a fabulous spring salad that I do not get enough of: tender Little Gems lettuce tossed with delicate slivers of baby artichokes, emerald-green lava beans, fragile fronds of fragrant anise hyssop, anointed with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette.  You can tell that I liked it.

This article is related to: San Francisco, San Francisco Film Society, San Francisco International Film Festival, Festivals


E-Mail Updates