Food on screen. A talk brings together cinema and the culinary world

Food on screen. A talk brings together cinema and the culinary world

The DesignTalks series introduces Fabio Parasecoli’s research on the representation of food in films as a social and political battleground.

This Wednesday, an attentive crowd has welcomed Fabio Parasecoli for the new event of the DesignTalks series and hung on every word of this lecture he gave under the intriguing title “Feasting our eyes”.
Parasecoli, Associate Professor and Director of Food Studies Initiatives at The New School in New York, spoke about the evolution of our civilization, as mirrored in many films that revolve around food or present an incidental depiction of cooking scenes and meals while making up a particular image of our society.

Infact, food has become increasingly central in how we imagine ourselves and the world. Parasecoli’s original vision managed to capture the audience – including the students from the Master’s in Food Design – and held it for an almost two-hour long excursus on cinema and television productions, interpreting food as a social and political battleground.

For example, his researcher’s eye identifies the Italian movies of the ’50s and’ 60s as a crucial example of these theories. In post-war Italy, the re-discovered wealth is reflected in films with discordant points of view. For some authors the cookery works as glue and fuel for interpersonal relationships whereas others identify an abundant buffet with the bourgeois bribery. Eating can even become something disgusting and sinful, as in the emblematic La Grande Bouffe by Marco Ferreri or in the peculiar La Ricotta by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Looking at recent international productions instead, Parasecoli posits the sexism pervasion and the political negotiations that are solidly rooted in our present.

Accumulating evidence, the lecture comes upon an unpredictable conclusion: far from being tied to a progressive idea of our society and of its evolution, food films of nowadays transpire a rather conservative narration instead. This gets translated into a marked discrepancy in the characterization of gender roles or in plots that reinforce engrained ideas of power that defends the status quo rather than supporting mechanisms of social change.