World in Film: Food and Dystopia

This post is my entry for the World In Film Blogathon, hosted by Alan from The Great Movie Project.

It's always fun to participate in interesting blogathons, like this one. I like the idea of selecting a film that was set in different places in each of the seven continents; like a representation. And believe me, it's not as easy, nor is it as hard as it sounds like to choose the movies. Only what bugged me was the 'sub-theme' idea, because I find it hard to do so. So since no one told me that it's a terribly wrong thing to do to pick more than one sub-theme, I convinced myself rather happily that I won't be disqualified when I decided to have two sub-themes for my entries and pick both food and dystopia. The only reasons why I want those particularly random sub-themes are because I want Mad Max as my Australia choice, and also because I love good food films. It's always nice to watch a delectable movie, don't you agree? (But my film selections have a rather disgusting take on food, though... e.g. France and North America). So, here goes, my bizarre picks for each seven continent! *drumrolls*

PUMZI (1953) dir. Wanuri Kahiu - Kenya, Africa

"This could mean, there is life on the outside."

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world, a dystopian Africa, right after the Third World War, or known here as The Water War, in which it's told that water has become very scarce that they have to depend on purified urine as their only source of water (a major gross moment). One African woman, Asha, who lives in a confined community, decides to search if there's life outside by seeds germination outside her town. This film kind of remind me of Wall-E, only darker, edgier, and definitely shorter; it's only 20+ minutes, so this is a rather short film, but I highly adore the director's courage in creating such a breakthrough and daring movie. Wanuri Kahiu is definitely a visionary and a dreamer, and she made her dream come true by creating and directing this movie, telling about important issues like water resources especially in developing countries like Africa!

Mad Max (1979) dir. George Miller - Victoria, Australia

"Like the sign says: 'Speed's just a question of money. How fast you wanna go?'"

Mad Max is one of my favourite guilty pleasure films. A young and rather unknown Mel Gibson and a dystopian Australia, with a very bizarre and extreme plot about revenge, love, crazy motorcycle riders and an overall decaying society down under... I find it very amusing. It's currently a cult film and has scored two sequels (and another one in the making), but it's not actually that good of a movie, I admit. Maybe that's why it's a guilty pleasure, because something about it really captivates me. The characters, maybe? Their characterizations (Especially Max, Bubba Zanetti, Toecutter and Jim Goose... well, pretty much everyone) are very interesting and intriguing. I wish they delve deeper in telling about Max, the best pursuit cop in town, and the entire crazy riders. I was also disappointed with the ending, to be honest; too fast, nothing so special, and Bubba Zaneti died a very easy death. The whole thing could have been more. I should note that this is a very violent movie, ruling out the way some characters die tragically and just like that.

Delicatessen (1991) dir. Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet - France, Europe 

"Nobody is entirely evil: it's that circumstances that make them evil, or they don't know they are doing evil. "

I love Jean-Pierre Jeunet. His style is very distinctive, sometimes in a very dark way, sometimes in a very satirical way, but sometimes in a very lovely way too. Delicatessen is a French dark comedy film, and what's better out there than a French dark comedy? Set in a post-apocalyptic world (but in a very peculiar way, as it is not futuristic at all, in which most of us sometimes associate post-apocalyptic world with), where people live normally but tend themselves with very strange activities and behaviour, we are told that the currency is food. Yes, so people pay their rent with food, or something sort of that. Then, another thing is that cannibalism is a main issue here: a certain character, whose job is as a landlord and a butcher, serves human meat to his tenants. And the main protagonist falls in love with that landlord/butcher's daughter. As we all can expect, everything else ensues. I personally think the extreme bizarreness of this film only adds up to its charm. Plus, this film is both about food and pretty much a dystopian world. Score!

Soylent Green (1973) dir. Richard Fleischer - New York, North America

"People will do anything to get what they need. And they need Soylent Green."

In 2022, the world is overpopulated. Especially New York, where there are 40 million souls living. People are literally everywhere, crowding, sleeping, eating and drinking anywhere they can find unoccupied, and food resource now comes only from the dictatorial Soylent Corporation, who produces different types of processed food: Soylent Red, Blue, Yellow, and the crowd's particular favourite, Soylent Green. But then the corporate official of the Soylent corp. is found murdered, and so a detective (played by Charlton Heston) is hired to investigate this case, alongside with his researcher friend, played by an old Edward G. Robinson (there was certain sad moments with Robinson's character). I won't talk much about this film, except for the fact that it focused on both food and a very messed up futuristic world, and a freakishly nasty secret about Soylent Green...

The Chef of the South Pole (Nankyoku ryôrinin) (2009) dir. Shûichi Okita - South Pole, Antarctica

"The hardest part is waiting for it to be over."

Chef Nishimura is a Navy cook responsible for delivering hearty meals to the Japanese scientists living at the Dome Fuji Station, located in the heart of Antarctica, South Pole. It's a really warm-hearted but crazy film, with a plot focusing on the men's experience living in isolation in a place where nothing rarely lives, and how they cope with homesickness, the cold, loneliness and the snow. The things I find most fascinating about this movie are the food scenes (all so visually delicious it's just ridiculous) and the sometimes extreme activities the characters all do in order to kill boredom in such a deserted place (like riding bicycles, playing baseball and other sports that require them to go... nude). The relationship between each man and particularly the lone chef is also very interesting. I suggest you not watch this when hungry, though. Not a good thing to do.

Tampopo (1985) dir. Jûzô Itami - Japan, Asia


"But people who eat noodles are all amateurs! So why make noodles amateurs can’t appreciate?"

This film is about only one thing: appreciating good food. In this case, noodles. Good, delicious, perfectly made noodle soups. The story tells about a widow running her own restaurant (Tampopo) who gets noodle-making lessons from the ramen master Goro due to her poorly received noodle soup. I love how the film really accentuates on the noodle making process, about how each step from creating the noodle, cooking the broth and adding the condiments must be done in their own ways, with passion and perfect skills. I also love how at one point they even describe the pork slices that go after pouring the broth to the noodle like "jewels of fat glittering on the surface". These characters really think highly of their cultural meal! Plus, there are certain funny scenes and memorable characters, like the hobo scene where some homeless men go to the restaurant searching for food (makes me smile everytime). Like any good food movie, I recommend you not watch this when feeling hungry, or worse, craving for noodle soup.

Bolivia (2001) dir. Israel Adrián Caetano - Argentina, South America

"Cook wanted."

Bolivia is a very expressive film, shot in grainy black-and-white and set in late 1999's Argentina, where the economic crisis had just begun, and tells the story of Freddy, a Bolivian family man who went to Buenos Aires alone to find work to improve his family's extreme poverty back in his hometown; the reason why he left is because he hopes for a better vacancy prospect in Buenos Aires, but due to his illegal labor status he can only seek low-quality jobs. He thus becomes a cook in a small restaurant in which many of the customers are from the poorer area, and witnesses certain events that describe the country's current situation. The director, Adrián Caetano, is praised by many for his take on this film: he discusses the important matters of poverty, recession, immigration and the common society who struggles to survive in their own harsh country, all in a very unsentimental and real way. Something to think about.


  1. Oh! How I wished you had done a 'food' theme entry xD - I've always hold off on watching Delicatessen, but being a Jeunet fan I think I can't avoid it.

    I liked how you described Tampopo, the way they put such emphasis in the preparation of a bowl of soup noodle... i think you might like this Japanese show (on 10 eps) called Osen.

    I love looking at culture through food xD

  2. I really, really need to get around to seeing Soylent Green. Great list!


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