VIDEO: Filmmaker Byron Hurt On “Soul Food Junkies”

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Davey D interviews award-winning filmmaker and MEF collaborator Byron Hurt (Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes) about his newest film Soul Food Junkies.

Hurt’s deeply personal documentary 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. Along the way, we hear from 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. 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.

We’ve been honored to work with Hurt over the years. His previous 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. The Chicago Tribune named it “one of the best documentary films in 2007.” MEF also distributes Hurt’s first film, the award-winning I am a Man: Black Masculinity in America, which takes a sustained look at how Black men navigate cultural ideals of manhood.

Hurt, a 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.

You can visit his website at www.bhurt.com.

In the meantime, this is what people are saying about Soul Food Junkies …

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.

NPR

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 in to 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

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

With tinges of Food, Inc., Super Size Me and other food-exploration documentaries, Soul Food Junkiesdistinguishes 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