Director: Oren Rosenfeld
Cast: Suheila Al Hindi, Jalil Dabit, Eliyhau Shmueli, Olivier the Monk
Watch Hummus! The Movie online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / Google Play
Directed by Israeli filmmaker Oren Rosenfeld (who’s currently working on a film called Holy Vegans), Hummus! The Movie is a charming documentary about the simple Middle Eastern food, and the way a shared love of the dish can transcend cultural and religious divides. Focusing on a small group of diverse characters, Rosenfeld makes his point in engaging fashion, while the evident passion for hummus on screen proves decidedly infectious.
Rosenfeld structures the film by cutting back and forth between a series of different subjects and allowing them to tell their stories in their own words, through both to-camera interviews and on-the-spot comments, as the filmmakers follow them while they go about their daily lives. The primary subjects are three different restaurateurs: Jalil, a cheerful young Christian-Arab from Ramla in central Israel, who has taken over his family hummus restaurant, but is torn by the urge to follow his own path; Eliyahu, a former dread-headed vagrant turned Hasidic Jew, who has opened a chain of successful kosher hummus restaurants; and Suheila, the only woman to own and run her own business in the Arab market, who once won Best Hummus in a TV competition. (Amusingly, her opponent, also interviewed, claims he won first place, perhaps unaware that the filmmakers have the archive footage to prove him wrong.).
Of the three, Jalil explicitly makes the point that drives the entire film: that when people come to eat in his restaurant, Jews, Arabs, Christians and Muslims alike all enjoy the same delicious hummus, in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. You can’t help feeling he’s onto something.
Rosenfeld also introduces a number of secondary characters, who prove equally entertaining. These include: Suheila’s afore-mentioned rival, who talks about how a family rift lead to his brother setting up a rival hummus restaurant across the street from him; hip hop musician and 6th Dan black belt Aluf Abir, who seems to have been a sort of mentor to Eliyahu and has some radical views about chickpeas; Olivier, a Benedictine monk, who’s on a continual quest to discover the tastiest hummus and who points out the role the dish plays in the communal lives of Israelis, irrespective of religion; and Jalil’s older brother, an artist, who shares his jaw-dropping secret behind the green leaves on his tree sculptures.
In addition to the heart-warming stories, Rosenfeld examines the origins of hummus, noting that nobody can agree on where it actually comes from – as someone points out, a generic “the Middle East” is probably fairest. There’s also an amusing thread about the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Serving of Hummus, complete with observations from both the Guinness official adjudicator and some of the competitors.
Clocking in at a mere 70 minutes, Hummus! The Movie is consistently entertaining and it’s genuinely touching to watch these likeable, positive people living their hummus-filled lives. Pretty much the only thing the film is missing is a definitive recipe for how to make your own at home. Also, fair warning: it’s impossible to watch the film without wanting some tasty, tasty hummus immediately afterwards, so make sure you know the location of your nearest hummus emporium beforehand.
Hummus! The Movie is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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