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Devour Film Fest Kicks Off in Canada

The Fruit Hunter Still - H 2013
"The Fruit Hunter"

Michelin comes knocking in Wolfville, Nova Scotia as the foodie event hosts 70 movies and sumptuous dinners over five days.

HALIFAX -- Hollywood's most fattening movies point the camera at compelling chefs.

Recall Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia, Tony Shalhoub in Big Night and Catherine Zeta-Jones in No Reservations.

Those movies brought audiences into gilded pantries, while also bringing dirty pots and pans into the open.

But European and other foreign food-themed movies mostly feature the big dinner, where eating well is the best revenge against life's woes and ills.

Remember the mighty gorge in Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast, Alfonso Arau's Like Water for Chocolate, Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman, Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat and Juzo Itami's Tampopo.

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So it was that the Devour: The Food Film Fest on Wednesday night in Wolfville, Nova Scotia had fest-goers feasting on smoked apricot glazed duck breast and local braised pork belly before screening the Bill Pullman-starring documentary The Fruit Hunters from Canadian director Yung Chang and the National Film Board of Canada.

Taking a page out of the Food Network, where celebrity chefs with popular restaurants host TV shows, the cinema/culinary mashup had chef Craig Flinn, who runs two Halifax eateries, serving carmelized sea scallops and braised beef short ribs to the opening night cinema-goers.

"I like films about the act of cooking, about how food is made," Flinn insisted as he spread a brown butter pumpkin puree on plates and laid on top the scallops and short ribs, before garnishing with organic mache greens.

A film festival that has appetizers before and on screen also had chef Frederic Tandy dishing out pork and veal stuffed brioche on a wild mushroom puree, and chef Chris Velden bringing out shan daph oysters, with absinthe pesto on top.

Chef Michael Howell, a former actor who ran the local Tempest Restaurant in Wolfville before launching Devour with former Atlantic Film Festival programmer Lia Rinaldo, said his favorite food movies portray artists turning food ingredients into meals, whether they are chefs or not.

He cited Babette's Feast, about an exiled Parisian chef-turned-cook and Julie & Julia, where a blogger cooks all the recipes in Julia Child's first cookbook.

"Whether a chef, or a person, someone is inspired to make food, to transform something into something else," Howell explained.

Devour will screen in all 70 films, including Jay Kim's Sumo Roll, Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine's Do Not Blame the Sea and Now, Forager, by Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin.

And while the films screen, Canada's top chefs will be wringing their hands and planning which dishes to serve after the final credits roll.

Ottawa chef Michael Blackie, co-host of Food Network's Chef Off, and chef David Smart of Front & Central in Wolfville, will host the post-Now, Forager dinner Thursday night.

And chef Scott Vivian of Toronto's Beast restaurant and Jamie Smye of Wolfville's Privet House are at work on a dinner to follow the Friday night screening of The Last Shepherd, a Slamdance title about an Italian shepherd moving sheep to Milan by director Marco Bonfanti.

Devour: The Food Film Fest continues through Sunday.