Can you handle it? You really should try. Plus a look at the nine other food films in this year's festival.
If bugs bug you, you might not want to see the documentary “Bugs.” Part of SIFF’s 2016 Culinary Cinema program, “Bugs” isn’t just about bugs — it’s about eating bugs. The many, many shots of hills, hives, baskets, and bins full of bugs are often followed by someone popping an ant, or bee, or cricket, or fat-and-squirmy grub-type bug into their mouth. The pre-festival screening I went to — populated by those who presumably knew what the film was about and attended of their own volition — echoed with EWWWWs every time something egregiously buggy happened (that is, a lot).
But the fact that “Bugs” is the polar opposite of the usual cinematic food porn counts as a point in its favor to those of us who’re rather MMMMM‘d out. (Also, looked at in the right light, bugs are beautiful; the variety in “Bugs,” in every shape and color, is little short of astonishing.) The people who’re eating the bugs are super-smart, sometimes hilarious chefs from the excellent nonprofit Nordic Food Lab: another compelling reason to see it. And the fact that their world-spanning odyssey turns into a story about ecstatic discovery, crushing disillusionment, friendship, capitalism and the entire food system is the bug icing on the bug cake. (Which doesn’t appear in the documentary, but if anyone could make a delicious one, these guys could.)
Also of note, for the grossed-out-by-bugs: The only thing that made the bug-eaters sick in their lengthy travels was hamburgers in Sydney. (“Eating a burger — that’s not natural,” one of them observes. Eating bugs is.)
“Bugs” screens on June 4 and 5; tickets at siff.net. Meanwhile, the most hotly anticipated SIFF food film this year might be “Ants on a Shrimp,” in which chef/superstar René Redzepi tries to recreate his Noma magic in Tokyo (and, not coincidentally, also involves actual ants on shrimp). In more for the Michelin-conscious crowd, “Deconstructing Dani García” is another haute one about the Spanish chef, as is “Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story,” about the life of the chef of Chicago’s Moto. You’ll also find documentaries about currently (but not literally) hot foods ceviche, hummus, and poke — the latter concerning Sam Choy, who’s just opened a restaurant in Hillman City. In the probably-depressing-but-important category, “Sustainable” looks at America’s (currently unsustainable) food system, while “SEED: The Untold Story” investigates the crucial biodiversity-versus-biotech battle. And “Tsukiji Wonderland,” about Tokyo’s huge, marvelous fish market, looks lovely.