Poor editing undercuts Israeli cuisine film

In Search of Israeli Cuisine, a film by Roger Sherman, Menemsha Films, 2016; opening April 21 at Landmark’s Ken Cinema, 4061 Adams Ave, San Diego.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — Good reporting can be sabotaged by haphazard editing, and that, sadly, is what happened to this film in which host Michael Solomonov, owner of the Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia, shuttles around Israel, tasting foods and conducting interviews.

The effect of the editing was almost as if we were served a meal with an entrée first, followed by a salad, then a dessert, and then an appetizer.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how the information about Israeli cuisine was presented in this overly long, and often repetitive documentary.

Takeaways from the film are that Israeli cuisine relies heavily on local produce, and draws from the many cultures—both indigenous and immigrant—that have populated Israel since the Jewish nation’s formal establishment in 1948.

What this film needs is serious re-editing, so that instead of a mishmash of foods and quotes, it will offer a serious examination of the status of Israeli cuisine at the time of the state’s establishment and how it subsequently changed over the years.  This could be accomplished in a number of ways.  One organizing method might be for the tour of Israel to go from south to north, or north to south.  Another might be to examine foods of the indigenous people – Arabs, Druze, Palestinian Jews – and then to look at how each wave of immigration brought new flavors and cooking styles to Israel. Then the documentary could conclude with a segment on Israeli chefs choosing from all these regional foods to create new and often daring food combinations.

My guess is that only the most devoted “foodie” will be able to resist squirming in the theatre seat as this documentary goes on and on and on.  However, if the producers would go back to the editing room, and cut the film by half to about 45 minutes, editing out repetition, Solomonov’s fine reporting would become twice as valuable.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.   He may be contacted via [email protected]

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