Documentary Site started as an outlet for my interests in documentary 15 years ago. Since then, my presence has expanded to writing, managing Twitter fans, and connecting with makers, promoters, and fans of documentary. Probably three of the coolest things to come from this endeavor are being invited to write for POV, visiting Kartemquin studios, and leading a discussion after a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali. My current project involves watching and writing about 365 documentaries in 2014. Feel free to send along your suggestions via Twitter @documentarysite!

#365Docs: The Raw and the Cooked (63/365)

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I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to hmcintosh@documentarysite.com. Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

The Raw and the Cooked: A Culinary Journey through Taiwan (2012) makes a poor guide on this tour that feels more like an aimless wander than a directed trip.

This documentary had so much potential with its subject, but it falls short due to lack of contextualization and focus. Numerous shots of food in restaurants, marketplaces, and gardens fill the documentary, but almost no explanation of what we see occurs. Even contexts around the food warrant little to no explanation. We learn that farmers’ markets are new to Taiwan, see a couple minutes’ worth of food shots, and then move on to the next subject. But why are these markets new to Taiwan? How are they part of the culinary journey?

While some sequences run too short, others run too long, such as the extended one of the chef gathering local ingredients, preparing exotic dishes, and then serving them to a select group. We see him making the dishes, but he offers little insight into what he makes until he announces the dish’s name to the guests as he serves them. Great for the guests, but we in the audience are not invited, it seems.

Some sequences do focus on food, such as a food co-op of sorts, a fruit-drying operation, and the Amis food preparation. But the documentary seems more interested in anything but, such as the American and his rooftop composting system, the petro-chemical plant protests, the Amis cultural preservation, and the political musicians.

Director Monika Treut positions herself as our guide on this journey through her narration and sometimes her presence, but she is inconsistent in her roles. She walks with a friend through the nighttime marketplace, but we learn nothing of what she eats or sees. She describes the Amis feast, but the visuals offer no indication that she was even there.

The Raw and the Cooked has so many interesting parts to it and so many interesting people in it, but without more coherence in narration and balance in editing this journey is a bumpy one.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.