Chewdaism at the Asheville Jewish Film Festival
An entirely appropriate feature for closing night of this year’s Asheville Jewish Film Festival, Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal will serve as a true appetizer for the reception to follow next door at the Blue Spiral 1 gallery. (Closing night food will be provided by Suzy Phillips and Gypsy Queen Cuisine.)
The hourlong documentary follows Canadian comedy duo Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman (of the web series YidLife Crisis) on a trip through the history and eateries of their hometown. The hosts are funny in their unpolished fashion — their ordinariness is also their charm — but the real star of the movie is Zev Moses, the executive director of the Museum of Jewish Montreal and our guide for most of the trip.
Moses seems to know everything about every building the trio strolls along, and the stories are revelatory and fascinating, tracing the history of Montreal’s Jewish community across more than 200 years. With Moses sharing anecdotes in his best chummy-professor way, what appears to be a slightly rundown neighborhood reveals its hidden stories in unassuming storefronts, bits of stonework and weathered metal signs.
And, of course, there’s also the food, the documentary’s premise being that Eli and Jamie will eat their way through a day, from breakfast to lunch (twice), through snacks to a double helping of dinner, with desserts thrown in along the way. Mostly they’re highlighting a community’s comfort foods — less aesthetically appealing than tasting of familiarity and tradition. By the time they get to the modern Jewish fusion dishes at the end, you’re already wishing you were back at the dumpy sandwich shop.
Eli and Jamie are vloggers, a kind of downmarket version of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon from the “Trip to” movies, but Chewdaism is a few notches above their YouTube offerings. Its multitude of historical photos and additional experts pack in a lot of stories and local bygone figures who might be otherwise overlooked.
Grade: B. Showing at 7 p.m. April 11 (with reception, $25) and 1 p.m. April 12 ($10) at the Fine Arts Theatre.
(Photo: eMerge Entertainment/YidLifeCrisis.com)