Como agua para chocolate as a Food Film:
Food, Family Ties and Emotion

Mauro Neves

 

Abstract

This research explores in which aspects Como agua para chocolate (Alfonso Arau, 1992) can be seen as a food film, and in which aspects the film surpasses this definition. Being the first Mexican film centered on Mexican food it prompted a reinterpretation on the relation between food, family ties and gender in Mexico. It also provided discussion abroad on Mexican food, somehow creating an erroneous image of Mexican food being part of a cultural cauldron involving sensuality and machismo. There are plenty of films that could be imagined by the spectators as food films, but I would argue that a film becomes a “food film” when food becomes the dominant symbol system in the development of the narrative. It is not a surprise that filmmakers in many genres consider using food to communicate emotions, but having a cook as the main character does not necessarily make it a food film. Why is food so important in a narrative? Essentially, because through it we can express copious emotions: love, sensuality, anger, rebellion, violence and so on, but also because it is part of the way that film contributes to the construction of a sexual, national or ethnic identity. As in Como agua para chocolate, showing in detail the preparation and the consumption of food can be used as a way of reassuring a cultural continuity.

 

So, what are the ingredients to make a film into a food film? First, food has to play a star role, not merely having importance when the film’s main characters are cooking. In other words, what is important is not the main character, but the ways the camera is used to focus on the preparation and presentation of food, making food fill out the screen. Also it is important to have the kitchen as the main setting in the development of the narrative, be it in a restaurant, a home, or a shop which sells food. Finally, the film’s narrative should consistently depict characters negotiating questions of identity, power, culture, class, spirituality, or relationships through food. Considering these three aspects, there is no doubt that Como agua para chocolate can be considered as a typical example of the food film genre.

 

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Bio

Mauro NevesMauro Neves is a professor at the Luso-Brazilian Studies Department at Sophia University in Tokyo. He holds a M.A. in Japanese History from the Buddhist University in Kyoto. His research focuses on the media, music and literature of both Latin America and Japan, especially with regards to text analysis. Among his recent researches is one going on about the Mexican Revolution and how the Revolution has been shown by Mexican films.