One of the many great things about SILVERDOCS is the number of filmmakers and film subjects who come to the Festival with their documentaries to be part of the event and importantly, answer post-screening audience questions. I am always most fascinated by how filmmakers came to their stories and found their subjects. Thankfully almost all of our filmmakers participated in answering filmmaker Q&A’s, which we’ve posted as part of our film descriptions. We think this new addition to SILVERDOCS is a great way to feed the pre- and post-screening curiosity monster.
As part of the SILVERDOCSblog, we will be posting some of the Q&A’s here, starting with one of my absolute favorites for originality and execution: COOKING HISTORY directed by Peter Kerekes. His film is about army cooks and eleven of their recipes from WWII to Chechnya, from France to the Balkans, to Russia—and explores how food impacted victories and defeat. The Doc also reveals how food preparation becomes its own battle strategy. What Peter captures and how he presents it is simply brilliant. But learn more about it directly from him.
COOKING HISTORY’s Peter Kerekes:
I am a film director and a film producer. I live in a small village in a small country – Slovakia. I live with two small kids and with my wife – Katarina Kerekesova, who is a director of animation films. I’ve graduated in 1998 from a film academy in Bratislava.
I’ve made a several movies: MORYTATS AND LEGENDS OF LADOMIROVA – 1998, 66 SEASONS – 2003, ACROSS THE BORDER – part HELPERS – 2004, COOKING HISTORY – 2009
What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
I was cooking together with my father – and during cooking you are usually speaking together about various things. So we were speaking about my father’s memories of the cooking during his army service, and somehow we started to chat about military cooks.
I got an idea – it would be interesting to research how an ordinary small man – a military cook – can influence the so-called “big history”. In the beginning it was just a joke, but later on I started to think about it as a serious topic for a documentary movie.
We did toooooons of research. We found around 300 cooks from all European fronts – I did interviews with 106 cooks without a camera and we then filmed with 24 of them.
What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
Basically everything. I love all the disasters during the shooting, because they have the potential to turn to the best parts of the movie.
Who are some of your favorite filmmakers?
I grew up on the films of Paradzanov, Iljenko, Petrović, Kusturica (his Sarajevo period) – their films had a big influence on me.
What is your all time favorite documentary?
PICTURES OF THE OLD WORLD by Dusan Hanak and WHO THE HELL IS JULIETTE by Carlos Marcovich
What other projects are in the pipeline?
I would like to make a TV series out of COOKING HISTORY – we got so much interesting material during the research that it would be very selfish to have it only on my shelf.
I’ve also started the research for a movie about the relationship between humans and things. It is a road movie in time and space with one question: “What THINGS would you take with yourself, if you have to LEAVE your HOUSE FOREVER?”
Why did you become a filmmaker?
For very selfish reasons.
When I was a small kid, my grandparents spent the holidays every year in former Yugoslavia. It was a time when we could not travel, because of the communist regime, but my grandparents could go, because they were too old to emigrate. My grandfather took wonderful pictures of the sea. And in cold autumn, my grandparents invited family and friends and my grandmother baked a cake and my grandfather projected the slides onto a sheet on the wall. I loved the atmosphere of the dark room, exotic pictures (even it was just Yugoslavia) and the stories of my grandfather.
I would like to make a same atmosphere in my movies – I would like the audience to have the same feeling of magic that I had as a child.
What are some of your creative influences?
It is hard to answer in several lines…
Did you go to film school?
Yes, film academy in Bratislava, Slovakia.
What do you shoot on?
16mm. It is very important for me to shoot on film, to know that every meter costs 85 cents. It makes me prepare for shooting very precisely.
What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
The film is still very young.