We’ve watched a number of films lately from Latin America that give me so much hope – engagingly human, unforgettable, and inspiring. Despite being low-budget, and not containing celebrities, each of them achieve some level of perfection of production that I find thrilling. Acting, camera work, music, writing – all carefully combine to make films that glow on the screen, and in your memory. All of the films share a quality that made them especially dear to me. They are ordinary – stories of ordinary people, of their day-to-day-life, of the food they make, their mundane jobs, but they are so beautifully presented that they become extraordinary and compelling. Like a well-made meal, the films are simple, but the ingredients are exactly as they should be, and they’re sustaining and memorable.
I’ll tell you about a few! Duck Season has become one of my favorite films of all time. It’s the first feature by director Fernando Eimbcke, and it tells the story of two boys in a high-rise in Mexico. It’s Sunday, they’re stuck in their apartment, and the power is out. It’s a really ecstatic film, and we watched it twice in two days!
From Brazil, we have The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, by director Cao Hamburger, about a boy who goes to stay with his grandfather and develops an unlikely friendship with his neighbor. A perfect example of how attention to every detail of production can make a simple film resonate.
I’ve already mentioned Adrian Biniez’ Gigante, from Uraguay, because it inspired me to make pizza with faina! A lovely movie with an underwater glow about the lighting and the pacing. And Whisky, a disarmingly dry, touching, and funny movie from Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll. The same directors made 25 Watts, a day in the life of three friends that’s low key, funny, thoughtful, and that you’ll think about long after you’ve seen it.
One more! From Argentina, the tale of a housekeeper and her over-bearing employer – Live in Maid, by Jorge Gaggero. It’s a quiet film, but the small telling details, which examine the routines that shape these two women’s lives, make them alive for us. The film is a very human and immediate way of describing what’s happening in the larger world of politics and economics.
All of these films are like little gems – it’s so wonderful to discover them. They allow you to travel to another part of the world, and give you such an intimate glimpse of the people that live there, and do so with such generosity, humor, and subtlety, that you feel fortunate to spend some with them.
And your meal for today is tacos made with black beans, chickpeas, yellow squash and corn. Everything is combined in a sauce of pumpkinseeds and fresh basil – a sort of pumpkinseed pesto, but lighter. We ate it with warm tortillas, chopped tomatoes, avocado, romaine, and grated sharp cheddar. I have to admit that it’s a little funny-looking (David laughed when I brought it to the table) but look beyond that! Because it tastes very good! Sweet, savory, a little smoky, a little spicy.
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 T olive oil
1 yellow squash, cut in quarters lengthwise, and then cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 or 5 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 t oregano
3/4 cup pumpkinseeds, toasted in the toaster oven or a dry pan till just golden and fragrant.
1 cup basil leaves
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t chipotle (or to taste)
juice of one lime
salt and plenty of pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir and fry until the garlic starts to brown. Then add the yellow squash, oregano, and sage leaves. Cook until the squash softens and begins to brown a bit. Add the chick peas and black beans. Stir and cook till they’re warmed through.
Meanwhile, combine the pumpkinseeds and basil in the blender with a cup of stock or water, and process till smooth.
Back at the frying pan, add the corn, paprika, and chipotle, and pour the sauce over everything. Add enough water to make it just as thick as you like it. (I like my taco fillings fairly thick and dry!) Cook till the corn is warm through. Squeeze in the lime juice and season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Serve with warm wheat tacos, chopped tomatoes, chopped avocado, grated cheese, chopped romaine. Whatever you like!!