Fantasia 2017: Abu (2017)

Kicking off the Fantasia Festival this year for myself surprisingly is a documentary called Abu. It screens on July 16th at 2pm at Theatre D.B. Clarke. You an find the Festival information HERE.

ABU : Father (2017)

Director/Writer/Producer: Arshad Khan

As a gay man, Filmmaker Arshad Khan examines his troubled relationship with his devout, Muslim father Abu. Using family archives and movies, Khan explores his struggle with his identity and compares it to his parents attempts to fit into Canada. – IMDB

Documentaries aim to educate, invoke thoughts about certain issues and tell its audience a true story which generally is the raw truth. Director, writer and producer of Abu takes us on a deeply personal journey of his life. While the movie Abu, meaning father, entails a heavy focus on his troubled relationship with his own father from values and views, his story dives into deeper issues of assimilation into Canada as a immigrant family, particularly as a Pakistani family. It also looks at his personal struggles and coming of age of being a gay man and in this also looks at the struggle between his family of modernism and traditionalism. Abu says quite a lot in its 80 minutes run-time.

No one can judge someone else’s life story, as we can’t judge Arshad Khan’s. This is his journey. For that, he exposes many truths and realizations from his youth to the present; starting his story from letting the audience understand where his parents came from and how they met and got married. His documentary laces together video clips from back in Pakistan and snippets of popular Bollywood movies (and performances, etc) and interviews with a few members of his family as he narrates his story step by step, bearing his observations, feelings and experiences. There is no doubt in our minds that this documentary shows us his hardships and it should relate to many people: immigrants, men, LGBT community, those growing up in Pakistan, those who relate to generation gap issues with parents, and the list goes on. Even if it doesn’t relate to it, this story tells truths about how he grew up and some very poignant issues ring up particular issues that are hidden away from other’s eyes, be it because of conservatism or religion. However, what is a downfall of this documentary is that while some events may seem to set a platform for various issues, there are mundane parts that make this documentary lose a bit of where it wants to take its audience. While it may seem necessary in his journey, some bits are extras that only serve to extend the running time and doesn’t serve to add to what this documentary is trying to portray.

The creativity of using real life video clips and interviews from family as well as adding in the modernization of cinema which addressed the issues he was talking about, helped create good supporting material to his narration. Plus, it is impressive to see the use of the once familiar VCR static fuzziness be used as a transition tool here. The documentary itself starts off with an animated sequence and these sequences do appear sporadically throughout this journey. The experiences he tells us about in this personal journey also resounds on many levels and highlights mostly hidden issues that many don’t talk about publicly. What Abu does well and truly deserves our attention is telling this poignant and emotional story, particularly in the last third (or second half) of the documentary as the issues truly come to light and Arshad Khan talks about dealing with issues such as anger, frustration and forgiveness as well as the change of dynamics not only with his father but his mother as well. Perhaps it takes a while to get into understanding why anyone would want to hear someone else’s story but give this documentary some time to get its ducks in a row and everything truly comes together in a meaningful, thought-provoking and educational way regarding religion, immigration and family.

***As a personal thought, most of you know that I’m not an immigrant but my parents are. I’m not part of the LGBTQ community. However, this documentary still managed to strike a chord especially in some of the later scenes. Its the family aspect that truly gets me. This goes to a point that in many ways, this film brings up many issues the relate in a multi-faceted way and that problems can transcend through different people because of similar instances. For that, there was one part that truly had me emotional.***


TV Binge: Chef’s Table (Season 2, 2016)

If you  missed Season 1 TV Binge of Chef’s Table, you can find it HERE.

I’m not much of a documentary girl, very much less a documentary series girl but Chef’s Table is about chefs and creativity and food. To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about the world renowned chefs despite being a food lover. There’s something so charming in learning about how someone pursues what they love. In this case, its being a chef but there’s a lot to learn when looking at someone’s story that can apply even if you aren’t particularly pursuing a chef dream but rather a creative goal. I love listening to someone’s stories and their experience and that is what made me love watching the first season of Chef’s Table. It took a little while to get onto Season 2 but I’m excited! However, keep in mind that I did watch this a little while back and never had the time to write up the review so maybe some details might be fuzzy but it was a memorable series.

Chef’s Table (Season 2, 2016)


Chef’s Table goes inside the lives and kitchens of six of the world’s most renowned international chefs. Each episode focuses on a single chef and their unique look at their lives, talents and passion from their piece of culinary heaven. – IMDB

Chef’s Table is a documentary that truly takes a nice look at chefs. I like the stories and the lessons that they offer as well as the eye-opening creativity. This time, there’s Grant Alinea who decides to create a meal on a table. Alex Atala that takes Brazilian cuisine and Amazonian ingredients and incorporates it into his dishes. There’s Dominique Crenn who serves a menu which is a beautiful poem. Enrique Olvera who takes on the challenge of making known Mexican street food into fine cuisine to show that his culture can have more. Then, there’s self-taught chef, Ana Ros in Slovenia who cooks out of her house and has her husband as the sommelier to make a great team. Last, there’s Anand Gaggan who lives in Indonesia but has an Indian restaurant who took quite the journey to get to where he is now.

I can’t highlight everything and I think their stories are best felt when you watch the series which I highly recommend but these are a few of my favorite episodes. There’s only six so its a little hard to narrow down but I felt the most inspired by these ones.

Episode 1: Grant Achatz, Alinea – “Turning a meal into an emotional experience”

Chef's Table

Usually, the showstopper of the Chef’s Table season is the story of the first chef they highlight. In this case its Grant Achatz who owns Alinea in Chicago. Every chef has their unique approach and his story is one where he turned what he grew up with into something more creative that would break the norms. His history tells us that even the most successful people grow through different people they meet (which is a similarity between a lot of the chefs in this series). They also have doubted their career but found enlightenment through another way. The dining experience at his restaurant is not only for the guests but for the ones cooking it in the kitchen also.


Episode 3: Dominique Crenn, Atelier Crenn

chef's table

Possibly one of my favorite episodes in the entire Chef’s Table seasons is this one with Dominic Crenn, the owner and chef of Atelie Crenn in San Francisco. She cooks with the focus on the importance of memory and telling a story. Her menu is a poem and she serves it with the intention of making the dining experience a feeling. There isn’t much more to say but the episode itself and her story is one that I just fell in love with, especially her food as well.



Episode 6: Gaggan Anand, Gaggan

Chef's Table

Everyone has a hard story of how they became successful in in Anand Gaggan’s case, it was being the best restaurant in Asia. He talks about Indian food being a religion. He takes the ingredients and makes it into something more to emphasize its importance. Other than great dishes, I think his story is one of the most heartfelt as he talks about his support system and his brother. The failures and decisions he had to make to get to where he is now.

Overall, the second season of Chef’s Table seems to have a common theme of not only passion and creativity but also that these chef’s look not only for recognition but to be proud of their culture, their upbringing and to share their story in their food and create an unforgettable dining experience that isn’t just in their taste buds but a complete experience. These are inspirational stories.

Netflix A-Z & TV Binge: Chef’s Table (Season 1, 2015)

Netflix didn’t have much to offer for 2015 in turns of a selection for C and I really wanted to do something from the past year to catch up.  Tranquil Dreams is all about food. I go to food festivals and try new things and figure out how to eat better and all that lovely stuff.  Its something I truly enjoy, so it probably comes as no surprise that I love watching cooking shows.  Sadly, there aren’t really many choices of those cooking competitions and the likes on Netflix.  However, Chef’s Table landed on Netflix not too long ago and its caught my eye. I only knew it was a documentary series when I started it up.  While I’m not huge on documentaries, this one did have me intrigued. You know what? I thought about it and figured why  not do a little crossover of TV Binge and Netflix A-Z!

Let’s check out The Chef’s Table! 🙂

Chef’s Table
(A Netflix Documentary series, Season 1)

Chef's Table

Directors: Clay Jeter, Brian McGinn, Andrew Fried, David Gelb

Chef’s Table goes inside the lives and kitchens of six of the world’s most renowned international chefs. Each episode focuses on a single chef and their unique look at their lives, talents and passion from their piece of culinary heaven. – IMDB

Episode 1: Massimo Bottura
Episode 2: Dan Barber
Episode 3: Francis Mallmann
Episode 4: Niki Nakayama
Episode 5: Ben Shewry
Episode 6: Magnus Nilsson

chef's table

I didn’t know about any of those the featured chefs before watching this series.  Chef’s Table grabbed me from the first episode.  Starting with Massimo Bottura was the perfect way as he embodies creativity, groundbreaking and inspiration.  It was my favorite episode out of the 6.  However, that isn’t saying that I didn’t enjoy the rest because each had their own views and creations that just wowed me.  It takes you into a world of cooking that isn’t just getting normal good food.  Its about the gastronomical experience that isn’t only about taste but about the thought and innovation behind certain foods.  There was a modern or unique take on all of their styles.  Except its not about foods, these chefs take us on a journey through their lives from the foundation of their skills to their achievements, mentality, cooking and creativity concept, what all this means to them and their regrets.  Each has their own personality and their own view on what groundbreaking cooking methods are and what they are trying to achieve as an end goal. Its an eye-opening experience, especially because what these chefs accomplish are really in the most unexpected places.

chef's table


 Chef’s Table is a powerful documentary because it kind of goes deeper to search for these chefs that might not be high key and renowned on cooking competitions or whatnot.  I’m not discrediting the hard work of popular chefs but these guys are in the background and they fell and got up and repeated until they could be where they are.  They aren’t just chefs but entrepreneurs.  Most of them try to break out of an image and some of them find a journey within themselves as they seek their unique style.  The highest passion of anything is expanding the view to what relates to it, its not just in the kitchen but also the source of the food and the flavors and seeking out, experimenting and seeking out those flavors that get neglected.

chef's table

Some chefs like Dan Barber, who breeds food to get a flavor, is equally amazing.  While Ben Shewry also is involved in farm-like outside of the restaurant ideas.  Both these chefs find the source of where the food is and try to make outstanding cuisine. Sometimes, eating can be casual but at the same time, gastronomical experiences are in everything and sometimes eating is also an educational experience of learning about where certain foods come from and how they come about and what you are eating, how its made so that it brings out the best.

chef's table

If my words aren’t enough for you to go check it out, you might also want to know that just watching the plating styles for each of these chefs and their amazing and imaginative ideas on the dishes they create are just a whole new level of food porn. These shots I’ve selected are just the tip of what is to come.  I might not be into gastronomical dining experiences but I can understand the appreciation for it. Especially after watching a documentary series like Chef’s Table, it helped gain a completely different outlook on eating. Plus, some of the chef’s stories struck a chord with me.

chef's table

Overall, Chef’s Table is an amazing documentary series.  Its full of food porn and great chef’s stories.  Its inspiring to watch and astounding to watch the creations.  It takes you on a journey through what the highest level of cooking is and that passion doesn’t stop at that one thing but its about broadening our horizons and views to achieve groundbreaking levels. It may be about food on the surface and man, all the food is fantastic, but every story tells something a little more about the chef and their personality.  It brings up life lessons and experiences that can be related to.  Its a must-watch. I absolutely loved every second of it!

Have you seen Chef’s Table? Are you a fan of documentaries?

Now that I’ve opened up my options for D. What do you think my selection will be?

The Random Chat Show: We Laugh, We Cry, and We Get Angry about Manipulative Movies

Check out this week’s podcast for The Random Chat Show. David, Melissa and I talk about a ton of random things and eventually go into a discussion about manipulation in movies.
Hope you enjoy! Happy Saturday!! 🙂

That Moment

Podcast runtime: 30 minutes. This week on the Random Chat Show, Melissa wonders why she can’t play video game characters in different games, David talks about bad sex, and Kim gets us going on movies that are super manipulative, which leads to a heated debate about how Rose denied Jack a chance to live after the Titanic sank. Plus, top three sidekicks! It’s all Random.


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Virunga (2014)

I can’t remember the last time I watched a documentary.  I might be when I actually watched TV on a TV instead of whichever streaming service.  Seeing as Virunga is a documentary nominated for an Oscar and the only one available to me because its a Netflix documentary, I decided give this one a watch.

Virunga (2014)


Director: Orlando von Einsiedel

A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save the last of the world’s mountain gorillas; in the midst of renewed civil war and a scramble for Congo’s natural resources.- IMDB

There is absolutely no way to review a documentary.  How can I judge a real situation? Thats probably why I’ve never actually done one to date.  I sit here contemplating how I feel about Virunga.  For one, I know very little about war in Congo, and especially Virunga National Park.  If there’s anything this documentary made me feel, it was sadness and devastation.


Just looking at Eastern Congo, which is the main focus of this documentary and the Congolese military giving up to the rebels and the business, SOCO denying all connections to anything or even wanting to uproot a national park where not only animals sustain their living in conservation but how it would affect the people living there as well, and for what? Oil production? You can get money everywhere in the world but to deny that they were even being illegal, that just sickens me.  I guess it angers me even more because I’ve always worked in domains where money shows that ugly human nature hidden beneath the everyday smiles.


What is devastating are how the war affected so many and even as they try to rebuild, it breaking out again takes away innocent lives, not just human but affecting the natural habitat.  The focus here is on the close to extinction mountain gorillas, but really there is a lot of wildlife in Virunga.  When they recount the story of the mountain gorillas, I couldn’t help to cry a little because its so tragic.  The dangers that these gorillas face: poaching being one of the main ones.  The poachers killing the parents to sell the babies and if they are saved, they are still orphans and thats where Virunga comes in to help rehabilitate them. Virunga National Park’s existence is crucial to the growth of the area and yet, some people don’t understand it.


Orlando von Einsiedel has put together an amazing documentary with Virunga.  It brings up an extremely serious issue.  He shows how there are some people who are willing to risk their own lives to bravely believe in conserving nature and preventing the extinction of these mountain gorillas (and other animals).  While also successfully breaking our hearts to see the devastating situation they are in. I’m telling you, animal deaths murder me every time, orphaned animals break my heart and on top of that, the act of war simply destroys me. When that tank fired in the documentary, I seriously wanted to cry.

I’m not one to judge documentary but this one is a must-see. If its anything this documentary has reminded me, that the world has a lot of conflict going on and while this has let me shed some tears for what’s happening to the park, its also reminded me that there are so many places that need our help.

Have you seen Virunga?