Why Not in Laguna?

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Our guest columnist proposes that the city host a culinary film festival.

San Francisco’s Food & Farm Film Fest invites chefs to create pairings. Courtesy of SF Food & Farm film Fest

By Beth Fhaner

Good eats and entertaining movies long have been considered a winning combination. Whether it’s dinner and a movie, or catching a flick on TV while munching on popcorn, it’s always been a desirable duo.

Several major foodie cities, including New York City, Chicago and Sacramento, Calif., among others, have embraced our nation’s foodie culture by hosting film festivals with an emphasis on culinary-related features and short films. In fact, Sacramento, unofficially known as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” hosts a festival of short food films that showcase Northern California’s regional bounty, including movies on craft beer and sea urchin harvesting. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s Food & Farm Film Fest focuses on the food-consciousness movement by inviting local chefs to create pairings for each day’s films. Among the array of films often screened at these culinary festivals are food-centric movies ranging from “Big Night,” “Julie & Julia” and “Ratatouille” to food documentaries and short films covering subjects as diverse as fish tacos, dumplings, fondue, macarons and more.

Besides screening movies, foodie film festivals often feature tastings and other special events such as meet-and-greets with filmmakers, chefs and other participants in the food and film communities. Additionally, the Food Film Festival in New York City, Chicago and Charleston, S.C., bestows awards in various categories, including Best Feature, Best Short, Best Food Porn, Best Film Made Locally and Food Filmmaker of the Year, among others.

With our town’s acclaimed restaurants and innovative chefs, not to mention the Laguna Beach Film Society and scores of local film buffs, Laguna seems like the perfect setting for a foodie film festival. I envision a festival that would run for several days with national and international food films being screened at various venues around town, including Laguna’s South Coast Cinemas and the Forum Theatre on the Festival of Arts grounds. Perhaps short films could be shown on outdoor screens at parks or beaches. In addition, there should be a central outdoor location where tastings, parties, meet-and-greets with chefs and filmmakers, and other special events can take place—perhaps at the Festival of Arts grounds where Laguna Beach Uncorked!, an international wine and food festival, took place for the past two years before being canceled this year.

LBM_37_Uncorked_2013_By Jody Tiongco-19
Laguna Beach Uncorked! served up wine and food tastings for the past two years.

Local restaurants could get involved by participating in tastings, having chefs available to meet and speak to filmgoers and offering dining specials that coincide with some of the films being shown. Besides boosting the local economy by bringing in an audience of epicureans and film devotees, a culinary film festival would appeal to locals’ interests and generate buzz for Laguna’s renowned restaurant scene.

Film festivals offer a collective viewing experience that often leads to interesting conversation and conviviality with like-minded moviegoers. A culinary food festival in Laguna would generate enthusiasm for tantalizing bites and first-rate films. After all, what could be better than a visual film feast that also pleases the palate?

Beth Fhaner is an Orange County-based freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about food, film, travel and local culture. LBM

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