Barbecue (Sydney Film Festival)
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Barbecue is a fascinating sociological document.
The humble barbecue has certainly cemented itself in the heart of Aussie culture; becoming a staple part of every public holiday and weekend during the summer and often beyond. In this documentary from Matthew Salleh, Barbecue hops around the globe, looking at the way different cultures approach the popular practice of applying fire to meat and, in doing so, perhaps try to sift a deeper meaning out of the whole affair.
In a manner of speaking it does. Barbecue’s conclusions might seem obvious on paper, but the exploration it takes to get there is fairly engrossing. Whether we’re witnessing yakitori in a high market Japanese restaurant, a boodog in Mongolia or a simple BBQ shack in South Africa, the film regularly loops back to the idea that a barbecue equals community; a tradition that encourages the nourishment of the mind and soul, as well as the body. It can be seen in the film’s visit to New Zealand to see the group effort in putting together a hāngī, or in the Netherlands as friends josh each other for control of the commonplace disposable bbq (or engangsgrill as they call it).
If we’re being honest though, Barbecue can be overly portentous at times, often to its own detriment. For example, the film is accompanied by a Philip Glass-esque score provided by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra which adds a sense of gravitas. If you didn’t think a country sausage sizzle could sound dramatic, then Barbecue will likely try to prove you wrong. How successful they are in doing so will vary from person to person, but during the film’s lighter moments, it wouldn’t hurt to keep things in tone with what’s happening on screen.
Overall though, Barbecue is a fascinating sociological document that certainly shouldn’t be watched when you’re hungry. And you can’t say that about too many documentaries.