Documentary Review: “Hummus! The Movie”

 

Oh hummus, you Dionysian dip delight, you magical combo of chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive and salt.

Is there any meal that wouldn’t be improved by the Original App, a little delicious dab daubed on pita bread?

Is it no wonder the Greeks want to take credit for inventing you? Ah, but they have to take a NUMBER, don’t they? Pakistan and Lebanon, israel and Egypt and the entire Levant claim you as their own.

“Hummus! The Movie” doesn’t get to the bottom of that. It notes the Israelis “are now claiming that hummus is part of THEIR tradition. ‘An Israeli dish; blah blah blah,” as one skeptical Lebanese chef gripes. “NOT true. In Lebanon we “have been eating hummus for a few hundred years.

“OUR cuisine, our tradition, part of our society.”

Yeah, but what about the Greeks, Beirut Boy?

“Greek? PLEASE. We were baking bread for thousands of years while in Europe, they didn’t have any culture. They were eating each other.”

That’s just part of the lip service paid to that great debate in “Hummu!,” a whimsical to the point of playful film from Israeli filmmaker Oren Rosenfeld. Yes, he’s prejudiced, and most of the hummus houses he visits are in Israel and in the towns the Muslim majority there still call Palestine.

But when his assorted cooks, chefs, restaurateurs and others (a monk and a rabbi, for starters) weigh in, it’s all in good foodie fun. The name comes from the Arabic spelling of “chickpeas” which seems to settle that. Egypt seems to have the strongest claim for country of origin.

But “Hummus!” is more about how its emerged, from that region, as a universal appetizer, the dip found from Dieppe to Daytona, Chareloi to China.

Rosenfeld has fun with folks on the street — New York, Tel Aviv, etc. — describing hummus –“It’s s a mousse. Chickpeas and tahini…It comes from Greece, Israel, Spain, Pakistan, what have you.

Jalil Dabit in Ramle, a Christian Arab Palestinian is the third generation to run his family’s restaurant in Ramle, and dreams of taking his secret sauce to Berlin.

Yehoshua Soferthe Jamaican-born rabbi, martial artist and “Raggamuffin” (rap reggae) rapper), has the hippest take on the snack and the “conflict” over it.

It’s the “national food of the Middle East. The common denominator that makes all people here stupid is hummus!”

As he croons in the film’s title tune, “”It’s not about Huuuuuumus. It’s about life in the wild, wild Middle Eeeeeeasst.”

A French monk in Acre complains about the taking of turns cooking in his monastery (“Very DANGEROUS.”) and marvels at the Muslim village of Abu-Gosh he walks through which has 20 restaurants, each with its own distinct take on the food for which they’re famous.

But the most serious this conflict gets is the ongoing fight to see who can serve up the biggest plate of hummus. We meets a London-based Guiness Worlds Records adjudicator largest serving of hummus in human history.

“As long as the finished product includes chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, salt garlic, olive oil we’re happy with that,” he says. Lebanon and Israel keep raising the kilogram throw-weight.

Whatever the history, the food is pitched here as the food of the future.

“Chickpeas,” one expert opines, “are SUPER food!”

A German gent marvels that “In Virginia, many farmers, they change their harvest from tobacco to chickpeas.”

From his mouth to the USDA’s ears.

Be sure to catch this with the subtitles. Unless you speak Arabic, Hebrew and “raggamuffin” jive.

2half-star6

 

MPAA Rating: Unrated

Cast: Suhela Alhindi ,Jalil Dabit, Ido Zarmi, Eliyahu Shmueli

Credits: Directed by Oren Rosenfeld, script by Oren Rosenfeld, Rebecca Shore and Baruch Goldberg. A Multicom Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:09

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