Tribeca Film Festival: A Taste of Sky (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

A Taste of Sky (2019) has two elements that instantly made me attach to this film: interesting food shot gorgeously, and people pushing to pursue their passions. The documentary, directed by Michael Lei, strings together many years worth of content that stems from Claus Meyer and the Nordic Food Movement he is attributed with starting, which leads to him founding a non-profit culinary institute and restaurant in Bolivia with the goal of repeating his success with the people of the region.

A Taste of Sky is a compelling documentary about the power of passion

The film opens in absolute darkness with the sounds of boats moving on water. Figures are silhouetted, and a gunshot is finally heard. A large crocodile is pulled onto the boat, and its head cleaved with a machete. Kenzo Hirose is introduced, and we see him preparing the crocodile and making what looks like sushi from its meat. It is an excellently shot sequence that sets the tone for what we will learn about Bolivian cuisine and the students at Gustu.

The film takes an odd detour at about the midway point, shifting focus away from the cooking and to the family lives of Claus, Kenzo, and Maria Claudia. It is one of the weaker points in the overall narrative structure of the documentary, as it doesn’t seem to really connect to the story being told. Yet, the family lives of each person, and the choice to have Claus’s daughter interview him for his segment, manage to be compelling. They just feel slightly out of place in the overall purpose of the documentary, even though all of the food connects back to their personal experiences.

That is one of the positive messages that come out of this documentary though: one can change the world through food.  A goal with Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia, was to use regional ingredients and teach others how to make gourmet food from it. Thus, creating a cultural cuisine that the world could become exposed to, and ultimately lead to generating a financial boom in the region. Kenzo and Maria both have found their passion, and their drive to pursue it is infectious.

Final thoughts…

A Taste of Sky was a compelling documentary that deviates from its overall purpose at times, but it ultimately left me with a pleasant taste when it was over. However, I’ve noted that films which push a person’s passions as the leading force in their lives generally win me over. As a teacher, seeing the lives changed by this opportunity-filled me with a sense of pride and satisfaction that I only hope others will experience while watching it. A Taste of Sky earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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