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The Arts Diary: Hannah makes a meal of choosing films that are good enough to eat

  • by TIM CORNWELL
 

NICE work if you can get it. Scottish film director and writer Hannah Robinson has scooped several awards for short films and a recent screenplay, but from May she’s mixing the hard graft of cinema with the joys of haute cuisine.

The ticket: Robinson’s getting to pick the best meals in movies, and serve them up as part of the travelling Foodies Festival, the gourmet food fair which returns to Edinburgh this August. The Food of Love Cinema will see features served daily, in a tent with “lovers’ seats” and eats to match.

“I’m sure that people will find it hard to reproduce Babette’s Feast, but you could have French food with that, or Italian with Moonstruck, pasta with Big Night, or tapas with Jamon, Jamon,” says Robinson. And that’s just for starters; think table service, she says, in “a beautiful yurt-like number”.

The Foodies Festival is touring seven UK venues, including, in Hampton Court Palace Green and Battersea Park and including, the diary can tastefully reveal, Edinburgh’s Inverleith Park. The line-up runs from Michelin-starred chefs to a burlesque food fight, which is less tasteful but could make for a sizzlin’ good arts diary picture.

Robinson has scooped several film festival awards for shorts like In the Mood and Night Swimmer, and her recent screenplay Fireworks – co-written with Jonathan R Hall – won first prize in the American Screenwriters Association competition.

She’s also particularly qualified on the food front. While a trainee film-maker in Scotland, she worked as a chef, at the former Tales of the Riverbank in Haddington, and Green Craigs’ restaurant on the East Lothian coast. And she also used to write about food for The Scotsman.

“We are at the start of trying to work out what films we can get hold of and how they will work,” she says. “I’m interested in what food does in different ways in movies. Sometimes it’s about the importance of food in people’s lives, which can be quite funny, like in Goodfellas.”

In that film, a coke-fuelled and increasingly paranoid Ray Liotta is bent on making family pasta while running drug and gun deals. “The whole time they are in prison they are working out how to make the very best pasta sauce, shaving a garlic clove with a razor to get it really thin,” Robinson says.

In Stanley Tucci’s Big Night, two brothers are running a failing Italian restaurant, and the older refuses to compromise the food for the sake of profit.

Then there are films where food becomes “sensuous and sexy and a sublimation of desire”, as in The Scent of Green Papaya, a Vietnamese film, centered on a young woman’s desire for the man she cooks for.

In Together, by the Swedish film-maker Lukas Moodysson, the moral of a 1970s commune is that “it’s better to eat porridge together, than pork chops apart”. Food in Scottish films is thin on the ground (think Trainspotting) but there’s “a lot of ice cream” in Comfort and Joy, the Bill Paterson comedy.

Robinson’s own film could put that right. “All my scripts end up with food in them,” she says.

“My screenplay, Fireworks, has a lot of mashed potato, and because it’s about a giant firework, it’s kind of about cooking. It’s set in a Scottish house. There’s a girl who makes mashed potato and leaves it lumpy to piss her dad off.”

Scot to be Barbados

Mouthwatering dream gigs, part II: Scottish folk band the Peatbog Faeries are to headline the Celtic Festival Barbados this June. Nominated for Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012, the band, who hail from the Isle of Skye, are supported by Sandra Macbeth, from Glenelg.

The week-long music festival includes food from the award-winning Edinburgh chef Paul Wedgwood, and has strong support from the local St Andrew Society, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

In November last year, the Scottish Parliament, in a members’ motion, recognised the efforts of the Celtic Festival Barbados to connect Scotland with the paradise island.

The festival line-up includes the main concert at the Plantation Theatre, bagpipers on the boardwalk, haggis made from local black-belly sheep, and a rum-shop tour.

Also on offer: a visit to “Scotland District” on the east coast of the island where the descendants of Scottish indentured servants, nicknamed “the Redlegs”, still live.

 

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