A comedy set in an Indian restaurant in NYC opens Stanford summer film series

The six-film series, which will be held in the History Corner in the Main Quad, begins Wednesday, July 11, and ends Wednesday, Aug. 15. It is free and open to the public.

With its summer film series Feast to Famine: Global Politics of Food and Water, Stanford University will host screenings and discussions about the culture and politics of the world’s two most important commodities.

The principal characters of the film series, which includes one drama, two comedies and three documentaries, are a chef in an Indian family restaurant in New York City; garbage collectors in Cairo; a time-traveling samurai who becomes a pâtissier in Japan; a couple whose wedding plans hinge on the onion harvest in Niger; participants in a populist uprising over water rights in Bolivia; and Americans organizing relief efforts for starving peasants living in the Soviet Union of 1921.

Gael García Bernal stars in ‘Even the Rain’ (Tambien La Lluvia), a drama about a Mexican film crew that travels to Bolivia to shoot a film about Christopher Columbus. The drama is part of a series, ‘Feast to Famine: Global Politics of Food and Water,’ being presented this summer at Stanford.

All six films will be shown at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in Room 002 of Building 200 – otherwise known as the History Corner – on the Main Quad. The series, which begins July 11 and ends Aug. 15, is free and open to the public.

Stanford’s Division of International, Comparative and Area Studies (ICA), which oversees 14 distinct programs and centers, is presenting the series. A discussion, typically led by the associate director of the center sponsoring the movie, will follow each screening.

“We have attempted to span various genres and themes, and we hope the turnout will be just as enthusiastic as it has been in past years,” said Sangeeta Mediratta, associate director of the Center for South Asia.

Mediratta will lead a discussion on the film that opens the series: Today’s Special, a comedy featuring two legendary Indian actors, Harish Patel and Naseeruddin Shah, as well as Madhur Jaffrey, an award-winning actress and cookbook author.

The sole drama of the series, Even the Rain, features a Mexican actor well known to American audiences: Gael García Bernal.

The other comedy, Chonmage Purin (A Boy and His Samurai), features Ryo Nishikido, a Japanese actor and singer.

The six films in the series are:

  • July 11: Today’s Special is a 2009 comedy about Samir, a sous chef who dreams of becoming the head chef at an upscale Manhattan restaurant. When he is passed over for a promotion he impulsively quits, intending to go to Paris and apprentice under a master French chef. When his father has a heart attack, that dream must be put aside when Samir is forced to take over Tandoori Palace, the nearly bankrupt family restaurant in Jackson Heights. (Sponsored by theCenter for South Asia.)
  • July 18: Garbage Dreams is a 2009 documentary that follows the lives of three teenage boys born into the “trash trade” and growing up in the world’s largest garbage village on the outskirts of Cairo. It is home to 60,000 Zaballeen – Arabic for “garbage people.” The Zaballeen have survived for centuries by recycling Cairo’s waste. When their community is suddenly faced with the globalization of its trade, each of the teenage boys is forced to make choices that will affect his future and the survival of the community. (Sponsored by the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Mediterranean Studies Forum.)
  • July 25: Chonmage Purin (A Boy and His Samurai) is a 2010 comedy about a samurai from the Edo Period who travels through time – 180 years – to present-day Japan. In return for food and lodging, he becomes a housemaid in the home of a single mother and her young son. One day, the samurai begins making pastries for the little boy; soon the samurai is a popular pâtissier. In the process the three become very close, but the moment they must say goodbye also draws near. (Sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies.)
  • Aug. 1: For the Best and for the Onion! is a 2008 verité documentary shot over the course of one growing season of the prized Galmi purple onion. The story focuses on a young couple that hopes to marry soon, but after each harvest, the bride-to-be’s father postpones the wedding, because he wants to raise enough money to pay for all the expenses tradition demands. As the growing season progresses, the market price of onions begins a rapid downward slide and the couple come up with a solution to speed their marriage. (Sponsored by the Center for African Studies.)
  • Aug. 8: Even the Rain is a 2010 Spanish drama about a Mexican film crew that travels to Bolivia to shoot a film about Christopher Columbus. They arrive in Cochabamba, Bolivia – the third largest city in the country – in 2000, during a real-life populist uprising that began after the government sold Cochabamba’s public water system to international investors. (Sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies.)
  • Aug. 15: The Great Famine is a 2010 documentary about the little-known American effort to relieve starvation in the new Soviet Union in 1921. Five million Soviet citizens died during the famine, which was considered the worst natural disaster in Europe since the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. Half a world away, Americans responded with a massive two-year relief campaign, championed by Herbert Hoover, director of the American Relief Administration. (Sponsored by the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.)