SXSW Review: “Barbecue” is a Cinematic Love Letter to Cooking Meat Over an Open Fire

“I’ve found that fire……”

“when you really think about it….”

“brings people together.”

A symphony of meat and fire, Barbecue shows us how an everyday ritual is shared by cultures around the world, as a way to celebrate community, friendship, and tradition. A film told in 13 languages, from Texas to the Syrian border, from ‘Shisanyama’ to ‘Lechon’, Barbecue is a film about the simple truths in life that bring people together, and how barbecue is a path to salvation.

It’s not often that a specific genre of food provides the much-needed catalyst to produce an attention-grabbing and emotionally captivating story, but Barbecue went well beyond our greatest expectations in doing just that.  Spanning across a dozen countries, Director Matthew Salleh managed to capture stunning visual examples of people coming together from the city parks of Sweden to a refugee camp on the Syrian border to the hills of Mongolia to the deeply established BBQ joints with a cult-like following in Texas.  Much, much more than an instructional video on the art of the grill or a simple fly-by of “this is how they do it here, this is how they do it there”, Barbecue shines light on the unifying idea across the globe that when there’s joy to be shared, the people will gather to do just that.

Shot in beautifully vibrant 4k, the film capture gorgous landscapes, authentic emotion, and a drop-dead GORGEOUS sampling of meat from the greatest variety of culinary artist we’ve ever seen on film.  Accompanied by a masterfully timed and produced orchestral soundtrack, Barbecue takes a portion of you senses on a joyous ride while leaving all remaining in abundant jealousy for not experiencing the activities on-screen first hand.

Finally, and by far the most captivating aspect of the film, Barbecue sets as a sounding board for the philosophical mantras of interviewees from over a dozen walks of life.  Profound statements about the joys of a simple life, the connection to the animals that died so those interviewed may live, and the vital importance of community and the joy that can be shared within are peppered throughout, surprising both the viewer and occasionally the speaker.

In summary, Barbecue takes the viewer on an unexpectedly wonderful journey of food, friends, family & philosophy.  Salleh’s film on the time-honored tradition of burning meat sparks a flame of life into a subject that could have easily gone the way of a monotonous Food Network special on a slow day.

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