Film and TV

DVDs & Blu-rays: Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Genetic Chile

Jiro Dreams of Sushi stars Jiro Ono; David Gelb directs. In Japanese, with English subtitles.

We have two food films for this week's DVDs/Blu-ray picks. First up is Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which chronicles the story of Jiro Ono, the world's leading sushi master. Ono's Sukiyabashi Jiro, a tiny, ten-seat, fixed-menu sushi-only restaurant in a Tokyo subway, may well be the sushi mecca of the world. Foodies flocked to screenings of David Gelb's documentary earlier this year, raving about the film. Happy and satisfied customers, food critics, kitchen workers, fish dealers and Ono's two sons are among the people who line up to sing his praises on screen. Of special interest is Ono's relationship with his son Yoshikazu, also a sushi master, who, it's said, must be twice as good as his father in order just to keep up.

Anthony Bourdain called the film "thrilling and beautiful," and Variety called it "mouthwatering." By telling the story of its most proficient practitioner, the film takes a delicious look at the culture of sushi.

Chris Dudley directs Genetic Chile.

Our second food feature this week is Genetic Chile, also a documentary. This time it isn't a chef but a chile that's at the center of the story. The film is heavy on the numbers: one billion people worldwide are hungry because of rising food prices, 90 percent of the countries where they live export food, the UN and World Health Organization issued a 600-page report detailing the effects of genetically modified organisms (none of which are good, according to the film), and the money at stake is potentially in the billions.

But the story isn't as cut and dried as it might seem. Experts on one side say GMOs are counterproductive and dangerous. Big business says GMOs are a safe and healthy solution to the problem. Hungry people and the organizations tasked with feeding them are somewhere between the two.

By focusing on chile peppers in New Mexico, filmmakers take an enormous, complex issue and make it bite-sized, make it small enough to understand. But, to its credit, the film offers no easy answers. That people are hungry and that something must be done is a given. What exactly must be done is the only thing that's up for discussion.

DVD extras include extended interviews with food experts.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Olivia Flores Alvarez