tribeca film festival

Southwest of Salem


Anna Vasquez, one of the San Antonio Four featured in Deborah S.Esquinazi’s Southwest of Salem.

One of the films I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival last month was a documentary about the so-called “San Antonio Four”—four Latina lesbians who, in 1994, were accused and ultimately convicted of sexually abusing two young girls. After the Innocence Project of Texas took an interest in the case, many holes were found in it, and then, about ten years ago, one of the alleged victims came forward to recant her testimony, saying her father told her and her sister to make up the story. I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and talk with the filmmakers behind Southwest of Salem and the women it profiles, all now out of prison awaiting exoneration. The article appears in this week’s Provincetown Magazine, although there are currently no plans to show the film on Cape Cod. I hope that will change. Here on the Cape we have so many independent movie theaters, so I encourage you to call your local theater to request it.


Eating Bugs on the Bowery


Courtesy of BUGS by Andreas Johnsen

Back in the day, if I ate a bug on the Bowery, it would not have been intentional. But last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, I was invited to intentionally taste grasshoppers, worms, and ant larvae at a small Mexican deli on 4th & Bowery in conjunction with the screening of a new documentary about the gastronomic possibilities of insects, BUGS.


Crispy Grasshoppers. Photo: Rebecca M. Alvin

This concept of eating insects was not foreign or all that bizarre to me. My 12-year-old son has been telling me for over a year about the possibilities for ending world hunger that consuming insects allows. After all, insects are numerous, varied, and easy to find all around the world (with the possible exception of the extreme environments of Antarctica and the North Pole). But what Andreas Johnsen’s documentary makes clear is that while it is certainly an important facet of the food chain to pursue, there are myriad problems to consider in terms of how the advancement of bugs as a food source will fit into the global industrial food complex.

What makes this 80-minute Danish documentary so good is its refusal to simplify the situation and buy into the hype. We follow chefs and researchers from Nordic Food Lab, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to broadening people’s taste in food and exploring diversity in food sources around the world. They travel to Kenya, Rwanda, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and even Italy, in search of insects that are and have been traditional foods for the people there. In the process, we start to lose ourselves in the enthusiasm for these apparently complex flavored creatures as Chef Ben Reade tastes each one and describes them as only a chef or a foodie can. But as the film progresses, Reade is haunted by the idea that large corporations sit on the sidelines, potentially benefitting from the work of Nordic Food Lab and others like them, while those who do the actual work of raising, capturing, and eating insects that are integral to their traditional diets will see no benefit.

Ultimately, BUGS forces us to face the overall problem of overhyped “superfoods,” the gluttony of first-world nations, and the inequities that cause people to continue to go hungry because of their geography when the world actually has more than enough food to feed everyone plenty. It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking take on the true promise of insects as food.20160418_140256

…Oh, and the ant larvae taco was my favorite dish!

Obvious Child

It’s a crazy week this week. I will be writing about the films I saw in Nantucket, but since neither one is in theaters yet, take a look at this review I wrote in Provincetown Magazine, of the very funny Obvious Child. For those of you not near Provincetown, it is also playing at the Cape Cinema in Dennis.

It’s Complicated: Traversing the Transgender Image


Directors Antonio Santini (l) and Dan Sickles (r) pose with Puerto Rican drag queen Zahara, one of the subjects of their film, “Mala Mala.”

Earlier this spring, I attended the Tribeca Film Festival, where I saw a number of films that dealt with issues of gender identity. (I wrote about one of them in a previous post on that film festival. )Such issues have been dealt with in the cinema for a long time – even in mainstream movies (remember Dog Day Afternoon?)–but I have been struck recently by the attention to this area of the human experience in recent movies.

In this article, which originally appeared in Provincetown Magazine‘s May 15, 2014 issue, I took a look at three such films. I am re-running this article because one of the films, Mala Mala will be showing at the Provincetown International Film Festival next week, so you can take a trip to the Cape tip to see this documentary. It screens at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, June 20 and at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 21.

Here is the link to this article: It’s Complicated.