(November 4, 2015 – Montréal, Québec) – One of the saddest facts of the modern, industrialized state is the amount of waste they produce. Of all the forms of waste, discarded food is perhaps the clearest sign that “the haves” have way too much and really don’t care what happens to the so-called leftovers. Enter chef Massimo Bottura, film director Peter Svatek, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and a new documentary titled Theater of Life.
Triplex Films, the NFB, Phi Films and Super Channel have announced the end of shooting on Theater of Life, a new feature documentary about an innovative initiative to combat hunger and food waste, directed by Montreal-based Peter Svatek and scheduled for release in spring 2016. The film focuses on world-renowned chef Massimo Bottura and 40 leading Canadian and international chefs, all part of a multi-platform project that includes live events and a website.
Theater of Life documents an inspiring project led by Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, is widely considered one of the world’s best restaurants. With the food-themed world’s fair, Expo Milano 2015, set to open last May, Bottura was deeply concerned by the expected waste of more than 120 tonnes of leftover food every day of the event’s six-month run—nearly one third of all food to be used by the Expo.
Food waste is a massive problem in many parts of the world, including Canada, where individuals and companies discard over $30 billion worth of food every year—more than 30% of all food produced or sold in the country. In addition to its huge economic cost, food waste is a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Bottura, a long-time advocate of zero waste, decided to put a different spin on Expo’s Feed the Planet theme, with the aim of sparking similar initiatives around the globe.
Bottura recruited 40 of the world’s best chefs, including Canadians Jeremy Charles (NF), John Winter Russell (QC) and, from the George Brown College Culinary Institute in Toronto, John Higgins and Dario Tomaselli, as well as international stars like Ferran Adrià, Mario Batali, Alain Ducasse, Virgilio Martinez, René Redzepi, Joan Roca and Viviana Varese, to transform food destined for the dumpsters into nutritious meals to feed the needy: Milan’s large population of homeless people and refugees. With the help of a parish priest, Bottura secured an abandoned theater in one of Milan’s poorest neighbourhoods to create a space called the Refettorio Ambrosiano, a spectacular refectory built with contributions from some of Italy’s leading designers and artists. At the Refettorio, Bottura and his Expo 2015 colleagues have been turning food salvaged from the Expo into delicious meals for local residents in need. The magnificent space is much more than a soup kitchen, the food much more than mere fuel.
“I wanted to create a refettorio full of beauty in every way. You can’t live on bread alone. You also need the beauty of art, of design, of ideas. The idea was to create a refettorio to feed those in need,” Bottura said.
Since April of this year, Svatek, producer Josette Gauthier of Triplex, NFB producer Annette Clarke and their crew have been documenting the “theater of life” happening in and around the Refettorio. Rather than making a conventional documentary, the filmmakers have been capturing the sights and sounds of every part of the project, and particularly the stories of several key characters: Bottura, Don Giuliano (the parish priest who helped make the project possible), and some of the people the Refettorio feeds: Fatou, a disabled woman refugee from Senegal; Cristiana, a young mother who fled Nigeria; Giorgio, an ex-addict now working to help others; Steffi and Marco, a homeless poet and musician fighting for a home of their own; Egidio, an Italian man rebuilding his life after losing his family and home; and Fawaz, who is trying to avoid life on the streets after being stricken with amnesia and losing everything.
“What appealed to me was exploring the extraordinary encounter between two totally contradictory worlds: the world’s finest chefs, haute cuisine at its very best, and the hungriest, the neediest just trying to survive in Milan. The Refettorio became a temporary home, a meeting place for these worlds to come together and discover each other,” said Svatek.
As part of the Theater of Life project and its efforts to raise awareness about the food waste problem, the Phi Centre, a multifunctional arts centre in Montreal, will host a series of events, including a conference, waste-food culinary workshops given by world-renowned chefs, a VIP reception, a benefit dinner, a photo exhibition and a preview of the film.
Theater of Life is co-produced by Triplex and the NFB in association with Phi Films and Super Channel (broadcast partner), with the participation of Seville International (international distributor). The NFB is the Canadian distributor. Release dates and broadcast details have yet to be announced.