NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY is a biographical documentary about 94-year-old James Beard Award-winning food writer and foremost expert on Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy.
Diana is widely considered the world's academic expert on Mexican cuisine, with nine cookbooks, two James Beard Awards, and hundreds of awards and accolades for her work.
At 94, she has a youthful spirit and energy. People often refer to her as the Julia Child of Mexico, but Diana prefers an edgier given title: "the Mick Jagger of Mexican Cooking". She lives on her own, completely off-the-grid in the mountains of Michoacán. More culinary anthropologist than typical chef, Diana has traveled many times over to every state and region of Mexico, extensively researching and documenting the ingredients and dishes of each area. Throughout her six decades of exploration, Diana witnessed first-hand as heirloom varieties of essential ingredients like corn, tomatoes, and chiles were lost to industrialization. She has documented everything.
Diana is a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her work unifying Mexico and the UK, and is the recipient of Mexico's highest foreign honor, the Order of the Aztec Eagle. Over decades, she's garnered the friendship and admiration of many prominent chefs and writers around the world, including Alice Waters, Craig Claiborne, Jacques Pépin, Alain Ducasse, Julia Child, José Andrés, and Rene Redzepi. She was a speaker at the MAD Food Seminar in Copenhagen in 2013, a guest judge on Top Chef Mexico, and inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Hall of Fame in 2014 for her 600-page tome, Oaxaca al Gusto.
Diana grew up in England, cutting down trees for the Women's Timber Corp in Canada during WWII before meeting her husband during a revolution in Haiti in 1957 -- New York Times correspondent Paul Kennedy. Diana followed him to Mexico City where they married, and she instantly fell in love with the markets, the ingredients, and the vibrant and varied dishes. She began a lifelong education in Mexican food, driven by passion, and devoted herself to mastering the cuisines of Mexico.
Diana lives sustainably in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico in a solar-powered ecological house she designed and built in the mid-1970's. She recycles rainwater, uses virtually no electricity, and produces almost zero waste. Between her gigantic gardens and a fruit orchard, she grows vegetables, citrus, corn, and her own coffee, which she roasts herself (!). Diana constantly speaks of the importance of conserving the earth's resources, and she practices what she preaches.
Diana Kennedy has always been a rogue pioneer -- now, she's a living legend. At 94 years old, she's still traveling, driving, cooking, and working from home in Mexico. She's a model of longevity, and an icon for the food and climate movements.
WHY WE NEED THESE FUNDS:
Diana's story deserves to be told professionally and beautifully.
We've been filming with Diana Kennedy for four years, and have over 100 hours of footage. Finishing funds will allow us to film final interviews with our crew, hire a full-time editor, pay our composer to score, and hire a sound editor to mix the film. We need hard drives to safely store the film-in-progress, and to be able to outsource branding and marketing materials from our talented graphic designers. We are beginning post-production now, and plan to finish by spring 2018.
WHY IT WILL BE WORTH WATCHING:
In addition to intimate and hilarious moments with Diana, the film features interviews with José Andrés, Alice Waters, Enrique Olvera, and Gabriela Cámara, among other chefs and food writers.
We have unrestricted access to Diana's archives, photos, and research materials, including several episodes of a cooking show she filmed for The Learning Channel in 1992 called "The Art of Mexican Cooking", which never aired. We also have 11 full VHS tapes of miscellaneous content from Diana's personal archive.
Composer Graham Reynolds is creating an original score for the film. Reynolds' music has been heard throughout the world from HBO to Showtime, and BBC to NPR. He has scored several prominent feature films, including Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Before Midnight [c. Wikipedia]. Reynolds and director Elizabeth Carroll met in Austin, bonding over a mutual appreciation for Diana. Reynolds owns all of Diana's books and agreed to score the film on the spot.
HOW WE'RE GETTING IT OUT THERE:
We have an excellent angle for international distribution, working with sales agents Dogwoof (UK/Global), Submarine Entertainment/Submarine Deluxe (USA), and FilmsWeLike (Canada), who all specialize in documentaries. Submarine has successfully sold films such as Citizenfour, Man on Wire, 20 Feet From Stardom, Blackfish, Searching for Sugarman, Food, Inc., The Wolfpack, and many, many others. Dogwoof and FilmsWeLike boast equally impressive portfolios.
We are 90% finished with production, and have a clear path to completion. After years of hard work, we are ready to finish strong for Diana's legacy. Our seasoned post-production team in New York is ready to give their talent, energy, and effort to make this project the best it can be.
Diana Kennedy is a precious piece of culinary and cultural history -- she's a fierce advocate of sustainability, a feminist, and a true lover and defender of Mexico. She is electrifying onscreen, with infectious energy, humor, and passion.
In our current political/biological climate, Diana's arguments for environmental conservation are timely and essential.
This film, made possible by your contribution, will allow Diana's influence and personality to be recognized and remembered for generations to come.
I knew I wanted to meet Diana in October 2013, as I was developing a project about the role of women in Mexico's culinary history. After a few hours of research, I was longing to interview her, but had no idea how to contact her. She was 90, living in Michoacán, Mexico, and for all I knew, might not have an email address. Later that day, on a whim, I went to a local bookstore in Austin, Texas. I pulled into the parking lot and looked up at the marquee.
It said, "BOOK SIGNING WITH DIANA KENNEDY TOMORROW".
I was stunned. The serendipity of the event was truly bizarre. Fate, or just really good luck? Either way, I was there the next day, introducing myself to Diana. On our way in, I asked if she wanted to take the elevator upstairs. She shoved me out of the way, saying, "I don't take elevators!" and charged up the stairs ahead of me. I thought, Oh my god, she's a badass.
Despite my nervousness, something about our meeting felt easy and familiar -- there was a kind of common understanding between us. Diana said she "knew" I wanted to do a film about her, and I told her I thought she needed a wider audience for her perspectives on the future of food.
She suggested we have a Skype call (she does email), and I arrived at her house to film for the first time a few months later. She made us tortas larger than our faces, at which point I knew I could die satisfied.
Now, after four years, Diana feels like family. I'm ready to finish this, for her.
Risks and challenges
In terms of risks, we've effectively gotten past most of them at this stage in the process. Most projects get stunted somewhere in the middle, and we are thrilled to be past that point. We are 90% finished with production, so instead of being years away from completing, we are months away (!) and can clearly see the finish line.
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