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WENDY ELLIOTT: Can’t wait for Devour! in Wolfville

'Is You Is?,' co-written by and starring Leanne Melissa Bishop and Kelly Perine, will screen Saturday at Devour! The Food & Film Fest.
'Is You Is?,' co-written by and starring Leanne Melissa Bishop and Kelly Perine, will screen Saturday at Devour! The Food & Film Fest. - Contributed
WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

Michael Howell is excited about the coming week.

He celebrates the partnerships that Italian chefs, the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian community have forged with Devour! Food and Film Fest this year.

In its ninth year, Devour! is moving east to Windsor, having set up a Kentville event to the west last year, which is continuing. But festival headquarters remain in Wolfville and the town will be hopping from Oct. 23 -27.

In some people’s minds Devour! is all about expensive meals and, undeniably, there are a few. But the festival truly has a conscience, given the street food party and Sunday’s chicken dinner.

One of the organizers explained event costs to me by comparing the big tickets to opera lovers buying seats at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. You have your passion and find a way to follow it.

Known now as the world’s largest culinary film festival, Devour! also shows its conscience in the film lineup. The festival will screen over 80 new food-and-drink inspired films from 24 countries.

Films on the importance of bees as pollinators, subsistence farming and Mi’kmaq traditional gardens are as appealing as a screening of ‘Big Night’ on Oct. 24. It’s about immigrant brothers from Italy who open their dream restaurant in New Jersey, directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci.

I applaud the inclusion of the panel on food waste and three cooking classes aimed at youth. This year’s theme: ‘Celebrating Italian Food & Cinema’ is great for everyone who likes Italian food – and who doesn’t?

“At its core, Devour! is first and foremost a film festival – but it’s so much more than a night at the movies,” said Howell. This year’s opening gala film marks the North American premiere of ‘From the Vine’, about a downtrodden man who finds new purpose in reviving his grandfather’s old vineyard when he travels back to his rural Italian hometown. The film’s multi-award-winning director Sean Cisterna and star Joe Pantoliano, from the acclaimed television series The Sopranos, will be in attendance.

Headlining the festival is award-winning chef, TV host, restaurateur and author Lidia Bastianich. She has her own line of pasta and will take part in the all-female celebrity chef dinner. The five-course meal will be inspired by the film. Bastianich will also hold a book signing of her award-winning cookbooks. She’s written 12 cookbooks.

Nova Scotian shorts include ‘That’s My Jazz’ directed by Ben Proudfoot and ‘Kahawa’ directed by Janet Hawkwood. The other local film element will be provided by Leanne Melissa Bishop of Port Williams.

The Canadian premiere of 'Is You Is?' screens Oct. 26 in the 11 a.m. comedy shorts block. In touch from California, Bishop said, “Our last two films that screened at Devour have been screening at festivals around the world, garnering many awards - and this is what inspired us to go further with these two characters - people wanted to see more!”

'Is You Is?' was co-written by and stars Bishop and Kelly Perine (he just finished the TV series Knight Squad, she said, and many know Kelly from The Drew Carey Show and One on One).

A former gymnast, Bishop just finished film entitled 'The Weight of Perfection.' It has a focus on the world of elite gymnastics and eating disorders. That should prove interesting.

Closing the festival is ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ that chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature.

Those who attend will have their pick of experiential workshops and tasting tours, such as gleaning and foraging expeditions, the Zero Waste Workshop with Bob Blumer and a Bubbles Bus tasting tour.

Culinary students from coast-to-coast will cook up a storm alongside the amazing festival chefs. Some of them are being featured on the big screen in films like Merci Bocuse, which follows Canadian chefs Trevor Ritchie and Jenna Reich as they head to the prestigious Bocuse d’Or chef competition in France.

As Howell says, “For six days, Wolfville is transformed into a festival unlike any other, as we pair an array of mouth-watering dishes with captivating films, experiential workshops and 100-plus events.”

Can’t wait.

Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott lives in Wolfville.

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