Make Hummus Not War review

Bec Butterworth checks out an Australian produced doco that addresses the crisis in the Middle East in a culinary way.

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Scanning the newspaper one morning, filmmaker Trevor Graham read a story that amazed him. There was a war in the Middle East. It wasn’t surprising, per se – but it was the subject matter that interested him. At that moment, there was a savage and bitter disagreement between the Israelis, the Arab nations and the Lebanese about who had the rights to Hummus. World record breaking dishes weighing over a tonne were being prepared by hummus makers from rival cultures in passive-aggressive displays of culinary bravado. People were referencing relevant food passages in the Bible. Dispersions were being cast all over the place about a dip made of chickpeas and lemon juice.

Graham was captivated. His mind took him back to a time when he discovered hummus – a heady whirlwind romance with a young Jewish girlfriend that would shape his love of the creamy dip for the rest of his life.

He picked up his camera and got on a plane.

Make Hummus, Not War is a documentary that is at once culturally complex and disarmingly funny. Graham worked for ABC television on the program Message Sticks for years before gaining funding to make Hummus. With his contacts, he managed to score over half a million dollars for the film.

Hummus is an entertaining combination of interview footage and animated sequences that reflect on Graham’s personal journey with food and love. Often quite candid, and with a jovial, almost comical narration style that keeps the film light, Graham interviews Israeli and Palestinian government officials, restaurant owners and hummus lovers about the origins and significance of the dish.

The most surprising element of the film is that it actually has something significant to say about the decades old conflict between nations. By using the hummus issue as a foil, Graham is able to comment about the seemingly unsolvable and sometimes even farcical element of the argument itself, and gets it in under the radar. Perhaps a little ambitious in its claim that bonding over food could be the cause of peace in the Middle East, Make Hummus is at least a good watch.

Make Hummus, Not War screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival

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