Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Prison Food, Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

18 Comidas


Rent this movie today.
As I have mentioned before, I am taking a wonderful class about the history of Spain through film.  I have received several requests to share the list of films that we have watched and I will definitely post this, with my mini-reviews, in late June, when the class is finished.

This week, I watched a movie for this class called "18 Comidas" which offers a glimpse of contemporary Spain. Families with secrets, bored housewives, people who are too busy to connect in person, immigration, birthday parties and more.  As luck would have it, the movie was filmed in Santiago de Compostela which makes it very fun to watch if you have ever visited the city or if you are curious about life here in Galicia.  I think the film does an excellent job capturing narratives of the city and some of my favorite places, including Pontepedrina, c/Entre Ruas, Ciudad de la Cultura, Plaza Quintana, Rua Vilar and even that little restaurant where Jaime takes us out for mushrooms and jamon in white sauce.

I also connected with the film because the premise of the project is that one can learn about people, community and an entire generation by observing how, when and with whom they eat.  Listening to both their meal-time conversations and silences.  Sound familiar?  The film constructs and records 18 meals, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners, that weave together the characters' lives.  Kind of like  Love Actually, but with a lot more food.

At one powerful moment, a female character nonchalantly pours her soup into an uneaten salad - rendering the dish inedible. She ruins a perfectly good salad with vichyssoise for no reason other than that she didn't want to eat either of them.  The "ensalada mixta" is her marriage - fresh and nutritious but boring - and the potato soup her flirtation with an old friend - not particularly spicy or delicious but capable of ruining the salad almost instantly. Dig deep, my friends, and you see her entire life in that pile of lettuce.

Other questions and issues that the film raises: What it is to cook and prepare a meal for someone who never comes?  Are you lying when you don't tell the whole truth? Can distrust and resentment poison make a meal revolting?

So, head over to Best Video, or your local independent video store, and spend some time in the old town.  Also watch for the prison version which I am going to develop with my old high school friend Jill, creative thinker, resident of fabulous LA and video-ethnographer extraordinaire.  "18 Comidas Encarceladas"  Coming to a theater near you.

Here's a clip from the movie with English subtitles: