food in the arts



Dir: Pat Mire/USA/1997/87mins
Dirty Rice  

Award-winning Cajun documentary maker Pat Mire takes us on a trip to a rural Cajun community in South Louisiana, as we follow the fortunes of a young architect who leaves New Orleans to return to his parents’ rice farm following the death of his father.

As Ben is seduced by the challenge of rice farming in a falling market and the attentions of an old flame, he decides to swap the rat race and superficiality of city life for a far more real struggle to save his heritage and rediscover his true roots.

Uneven acting and cursory shots of the cuisine and the scenery, like the swooping crop-duster silhouetted momentarily against a spectacular sunset, leave you hungry for more.

But these shortcomings are outweighed by the compensations. Mire gives us a sensitive and perceptive insight into the ethnic culture and language of a Cajun community set in his hometown of Eunice in Louisiana.

To watch them celebrate their own version of Mardi Gras - a strange event rarely witnessed by outsiders, which includes chasing a chicken - is a treat in store. Curious dishes like gumbo, jambalaya and dirty rice, which takes its name from the specks of liver which discolour the rice, are also on the menu.

Best of all is the music. Accordion, fiddle, guitar, percussion and vocals are the line-up in a typical Cajun band, which is afforded plenty of occasions to strike up. The stereo soundtrack is excellent and the music alone is enough make this film a must.  

Susan Wolk

Dirty Rice premiered at the London Film Festival in November 2000, was introduced by Louisiana-born writer and director Pat Mire. 

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