HotDocs ’16 – Day 5: Ants on a Shrimp/De Palma

Ants on a Shrimp
Ants on a Shrimp

Ants on a Shrimp (Netherlands, 2016): Much like documentaries about climate change, after a while all food-centered docs start to look the same. There lies the brilliancy of filmmaker Maurice Dekkers, who cares more about discovering what makes his subject tick than cater to foodies.

Dekkers’ subject is a doozy: Chef René Redzepi, the man behind the best restaurant in the world, Noma. In 2015, Redzepi moved his entire team from Copenhagen to Tokyo for a few months to build an entire new menu and serve Japanese patrons for a few weeks. There were 58,000 people on the waiting list.

Far from the neurotic autocrats in most cooking shows (looking at you, Gordon Ramsay), Redzepi is soft-spoken and unflappable. How does he stay at the top of his craft? He challenges himself consistently. He doesn’t care for adapting Noma’s menu to Japan. Redzepi rather discover what’s unique about his new surroundings and turn it into a dish.

Redzepi’s capacity to think outside the box leads to spectacular discoveries (scallop fudge, deep fried fish sperm). More than a mere doc about food, Ants on a Shrimp presents us a genius at work at the peak of his powers. 4/5 prairie dogs.

Ants on a Shrimp will also play on Wednesday, May 4th.

De Palma (USA, 2015): For a movie about one of the most interesting American directors, made by two renown indie filmmakers –Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow-, De Palma is a letdown. Outside of voluminous amounts of trivia (the kind you could find in IMDb), there is little insight about what makes De Palma tick.

The documentary goes through De Palma’s filmography movie by movie. While it’s undeniably entertaining to find out that Sean Connery had to be begged to do another take of his death scene in The Untouchables, the fact De Palma barely pays lip service to his Hitchcock connection indicates Baumbach and Paltrow didn’t quite press the director into revealing more substantial information.

Without any other testimony, De Palma feels like a glorified interview, with top notch archive footage, but minimal production effort. Heck, even the framing is off. 2/5 prairie dogs.

De Palma will also play on Tuesday, May 3rd and Friday, May 6th.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.