Casula Powerhouse is really onto a winner with their food’n’film offerings, popping up regularly in collaboration with an array of different film festivals. I visited earlier this month, during the 2017 Sydney Film Festival, to see Barbecue (2017).
As well as the opportunity to immerse yourself in 102 minutes of barbequed meats from across the globe, this event afforded guests with the opportunity to meet director Matthew Salleh, along with producers Daniel Joyce and Rose Tucker, and settle in for a Venezuelan barbecue meal with them.
Barbecue is a very fitting documentary to view in the Liverpool area where residents speak more than 140 languages, as it takes viewers in language to 12 different geographic locations. While each location has different rituals and traditions surrounding the way they flame-grill meat, they all coalesce around bringing people together. “We kept finding these commonalities between cultures," filmmaker Matthew Salleh explained.
Whether they’re having a braii in South Africa; grilling yakitori over binchō-tan (white charcoal) in Japan; eating asado in Uruguay; or doing the "craploads of work" to make a hangi in New Zealand, there’s a palpable excitement in each setting. It’s instantly clear that there’s more at stake than just a well-cooked piece of meat. Participants in these barbecues are continuing longstanding traditions, sharing intergenerational knowledge, building friendships and making community.
By jumping from shawarma in a refugee camp on the border between Syria and Jordan straight to Americans firing weapons for fun in Texas, the filmmaker gently highlights that underneath other tensions, we all come together in very similar ways to grill meat. Excellent cinematography ensures your mouth is watering as you watch rotisserie lechón (roast suckling pig) turned by hand (and foot) in Cebu. Clouds of smoke drifting across the screen from the various styles of barbeque have you almost believing you can smell it. It's a feast for all the senses with a lush orchestral soundtrack by Christopher Larkin, performed by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra. It should bring a smile to the face of anyone who likes Philip Glass.
Pathos comes from watching the sun-starved Swedes approximate tradition on engangsgrill - disposable barbeques - which summon bad memories of being trapped in Ikea with a trolley full of items you won't ever use. You also might cringe when you see contemporary Australian values reflected back at you, with one pub-goer explaining pub barbeques go well "until someone throws some kebabs on there” or something else nobody can cook. If barbeque is about bringing people together, surely we can can put in the effort to get better at cooking multicultural meats?
Barbecue left us with plenty to ponder with fellow movie-goers over a Venezualan-inspired barbeque meal. The meal was put together by Bellbird Chef Federico Rekowski who introduced me to his outdoor smoker earlier in the evening, explaining: "It's like my roots meeting technology." Keep your eyes peeled for smoked items, like pork belly, currently popping up on his regular menu.
Guests were treated to a long table experience down the turbine hall with shared platters of barbequed meats.
The plentiful spread ranged from the brisket I saw smoking earlier, to chorizos, black puddings, and chicken cooked sous vide with lemon and thyme, before being finished on the grill.
Our heaving plates were accompanied by chimmichurri and guasacaca sauce, made from pureed avocado and spices; with salad, bread rolls, roasted potatoes and onions all passed separately.
The ticket price of $47 included film, meal and a glass of Eden Road wine. I accompanied my meal with an intriguing Eden Road P3 chalkboard blend of pinot noir, meunier and gris. It's one of their experimental, limited edition wines that I'd be ever so happy to drink again, with or without barbeque.
NOTE: Find more information about upcoming films and film festivals on the Casula Powerhouse website.
Casula Powerhouse, 1 Powerhouse Road, Casula
Ph: (02) 9824 1121