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Soul Food Junkies

A Film About Family, Food & Tradition

Soul Food Junkies

Duration: 64 min
ISBN: 1-932869-73-5
Date Produced: 2012
Subtitles: English

Filmmaker Info
Film Festivals
Related Links
Press Reviews
Praise for the Film

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Soul Food Junkies
A Film About Family, Food & Tradition

Award-winning filmmaker Byron Hurt offers a fascinating exploration of the soul food tradition, its relevance to black cultural identity, and its continuing popularity despite the known dangers of high-fat, high-calorie diets. Inspired by his father's lifelong love affair with soul food even in the face of a life-threatening health crisis, Hurt discovers that the relationship between African-Americans and dishes like ribs, grits, and fried chicken is deep-rooted and culturally based. At the same time, he moves beyond matters of culture and individual taste to show how the economics of the food industry have combined with socioeconomic conditions in predominantly black neighborhoods to dramatically limit food choices. The result is an absorbing and ultimately inspiring look at the cultural politics of food and the complex interplay between identity, taste, power, and health. Features soul food cooks, historians, doctors, and food justice movement activists who are challenging the food industry, creating sustainable gardens, and advocating for better supermarkets, more farmers' markets, and healthier takes on soul food.

Filmmaker Info

A film by Byron Hurt.
Soul Food Junkies is a co-production of God Bless the Child Productions, LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Filmmaker's Bio

Byron Hurt is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, a published writer, and an anti-sexist activist. His most recent documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. It was later broadcast nationally on the Emmy award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, drawing an audience of more than 1.3 million viewers. To date, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes has been selected to appear in more than 50 film festivals worldwide and The Chicago Tribune named it "one of the best documentary films in 2007." In addition to being a filmmaker, Hurt is a nationally respected activist. Since 1993, he has been using his craft, his voice, and his writings to broaden and deepen how people think about race and gender. His first film, I am a Man: Black Masculinity in America, is a 60-minute award-winning documentary that captures the thoughts and feelings of African-American men and women from over fifteen cities across the country. As an activist, Byron has served as a long-time gender violence prevention educator. The former Northeastern University football quarterback was also a founding member of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, the leading college-based rape and domestic violence prevention initiative for college and professional athletics. Hurt is also the former Associate Director of the first gender violence prevention program in the United States Marine Corps. Hurt has lectured at hundreds of campuses, presented at numerous professional conferences, and trained thousands of young men and women on issues related to gender, race, sex, violence, music, and visual media. Visit his website at

Film Festivals

Winner, Best Documentary, American Black Film Festival 2012
Winner, Best Documentary Feature, Urbanworld Film Festival 2012

Discussion Guide from PBS

Press Reviews

"Soul Food Junkies is so important -- an instant classic, even. Byron Hurt is calling for change, and that change starts at home, in the kitchen."
- New York Daily News

"It's a very smart film, alarming but not shaming, about how vexing it is to tell people to eat differently when they associate making great traditional foods with the closest social bonds they have."

"Mr. Hurt blends gravity with levity and ventures into the Deep South to explore the origins of old-fashioned, home-cooked soul food... In a country where the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than one-third of U.S. adults are overweight, Mr. Hurt tries to offer insight into what has gone wrong in the food supply-chain as well as what America needs to do in order reverse the descent into obesity."
- The Wall Street Journal

"Examines how black cultural identity is linked to high-calorie, high-fat food such as fried chicken and barbecued ribs and how eating habits may be changing."
- New York Times

"A vastly entertaining, hilarious, passionate, revelatory and thoroughly researched documentary which examines Soul Food's significance in Black American culture... Easily one of the year's best."
- IndieWire

"Hurt's film takes a historical, cultural and culinary journey to the origins of soul-food traditions and their complex connection to black identity. Telling it like it is, Soul Food Junkies illuminates the good, bad and ugly truths about ribs, fried chicken, macaroni-and-cheese and all those potentially dangerous fixins'."

"This is not just another food film. It is a heartfelt story of family and community. It is also a trenchant ethnography that unpacks the role of "Soul Food" in the historical resistance of African Americans to slavery, Jim Crow and modern-day racism. Mr. Hurt's nuanced documentary, woven into his personal narrative, reveals not only the impact of Black cuisine on African Americans, but its impact on Southern cooking and on the way many of us relate to food. He manages to accomplish all of this with painful honesty, warm humor and deep respect."
- Eric Holt-Gimenez | Executive Director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy - Food First

"Soul Food Junkies blends history, humor, and heartwarming stories to place this culinary tradition under the microscope."
- Black Star Film Festival

"The film delicately infuses comedy into an examination of African American culinary traditions prior to, during, and after American slavery when eating habits were often based on survival...5 of 5 stars."
- The Movie Pot

"With origins in West Africa and deep roots in the black south, soul food has a complex history and considerable impacts on the health of the black community today. Examining both the benefits and harms, Hurt is telling an important and timely story of cultural identity, food access, and eating choices."
- Colorlines

"Soul Food Junkies makes clear that hope for the future rests with the children."
- KQED's Bay Area Bites

"Soul Food Junkies is a thoughtful, historical, and personal examination of the unhealthy effects of African American eating habits."
- Philadelphia Inquirer

"With tinges of Food, Inc., Super Size Me and other food-exploration documentaries, Soul Food Junkies distinguishes itself through its black perspective and focus on black American life. As someone who has often critiqued media and their representation of black people and blackness as a whole, I found it comforting to see a story such as this told by blacks through the lens of blackness while still having universal appeal."
- The Root

"In his partly autobiographical documentary, Soul Food Junkies, Byron Hurt investigates African-Americans' attachment to food traditions, and challenges his audience to take a closer look at those relationships. He returns to his own father's death, made premature by what he speculates was overeating brought on by deep depression. Junkies isn't all blues. Hurt offers a sometimes hilarious look at our affinity to foods like fried chicken, fat-flavored collard greens, and fried pork chops despite the knowledge that these foods increase risks for diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, stokes, heart disease and obesity."
- Ebony

"Soul Food Junkies offers a sometimes humorous exploration of the Black community's affinity for foods like fried chicken, fat-flavored collard greens, and fried pork chops, despite the fact that these foods increase risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, stokes, heart disease and obesity. Inspired by the premature death of his father, Hurt traces the origins of soul food back to slavery and encourages healthier approaches to soul food preparation."

Praise for the Film

"Soul Food Junkies is a thoughtful, emotionally riveting, and historically grounded film. Byron Hurt masterfully strikes a delicate balance in understanding how food is both a site of inequality and deeply treasured cultural tradition. Though rooted in African American culinary culture, it speaks to the universal themes of love, loss and well-being."
- Imani Perry | Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University | Author of More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States

"Byron Hurt has brought together some of the most important voices on African American food traditions to discuss a topic deep at the heart of our culture. At a time when there are so many conflicting messages about soul food, Hurt has provided a fabulous critical discussion of the politics, culture, history, and economics of this most contentious concept. Soul Food Junkies offers a corrective to many of the misperceptions we have about African American foodways and simultaneously, provides a substantive way of thinking about cultural sustainability and viability. To gain a wide variety of perspectives and images on soul food, you should not hesitate to watch Hurt's very informative documentary. It is a conversation that is beneficial to all races and ethnicities because it challenges all of us to consider what it means to cling to traditions -- real and imagined -- even when change is necessary."
- Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson | Associate Professor of American Studies and Co-Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Maryland

"Byron Hurt's film slices through the romanticized notions attached to Soul Food and exposes the raw power our food habits hold over us. From practical necessity to virtue, from cherished tradition to nutritional hazard, Hurt narrates the history of African American (aka Southern) cuisine and depicts the consequences of its fateful exploitation by commercial interests."
- Dr. Robert Dirks | Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Sociology at Illinois State University

"Soul Food Junkies is a conversation starter and call to action for anyone who cares about black people. The film offers a frank and fair depiction of the current food and health dilemma in black communities. It makes a persuasive case for finding solutions that go beyond simplistic views of nutrition education. I especially recommend this film to members of black communities and to professionals who work with black communities."
- Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH | Professor of Epidemiology at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine | Founder & Chair, African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network

"Soul Food Junkies wonderfully describes the complexity of African-American food culture. This film is an asset to any course that dissects the true meaning of food and the root decisions of food choice using the transitions of culture and the environment as the primary linkage."
- Chiquita A. Briley, Ph.D. | Associate Professor of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion at Mississippi State University

"It is a wonderful film! Timely. Important. Moving. Balanced. It would be a suitable teaching tool for classroom use in such fields as African American Studies, health policy, and nutrition. It also lends itself to serving as the jumping off point for community-based discussions of the obesity crisis and other chronic health conditions for which nutritional imbalances are risk factors. In fact at Northeastern University the Department of African American Studies, the Center for Community Health Education and Research, and the John D. O'Bryant African American Institute are building a set of public programs around it."
- Robert L. Hall | Associate Professor of African American Studies at Northeastern University

"Refreshing in its accurate portrayal of the familial bonds that characterize the preparation and consumption of soul food within African American communities, Soul Food Junkies invites us to consider how, despite enduring legacies of neglect and institutionalized racism, African Americans transformed their foodways into a broader cultural phenomenon within mainstream America. Timely in its acknowledgement of growing rates of obesity among African Americans and thought provoking in its recognition of the challenges many African Americans face in making healthy food choices, Soul Food Junkies is a much needed addition to our broader national discourse about health, access, and identity."
- Rana Asali Hogarth, Ph.D. | Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Associate in African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Selected for Video Librarian's 2013 "Best Documentaries" List

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