Similar to books, we’re not anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate films but as a public service we will periodically discuss barbecue-related films.
Monk: Barbecue is a documentary film that explores the meat-over-fire customs of thirteen countries around the world and premiered earlier this year at SXSW in Austin (an apt location if their ever was one). It was promptly was snatched up by Netflix and released a few weeks ago back in August.
The images are presented simply (in stunning 4K video if you have a compatible set) and accompanied by the native language of the country where each segment is filmed with an orchestral backing that flourishes appropriately and beautifully. My favorite segments were Mongolia (24:05) and its “boodog” tradition of stuffing scorching hot rocks down animal carcasses to internally cook the meat of marmots and goats, the Philippines (40:20) and their traditions of whole hog lechon (that in many ways resembles eastern NC whole hog), and of course the lone US segment on Texas barbecue (1:08:45). The Texas segment featured many heavy hitters that have been around for a while – Smitty’s, Louie Mueller, Snow’s, Black’s – as well as lesser known joints such as Patillo’s and Prine’s.
Barbecue is clearly an astonishing feat in terms of scope and size. While the focus of the film is the ritual of putting meat over fire and how it varies from country to country, it ultimately comes to much more than simply exploring food customs. Barbecue explores race, class, life, and death in a beautiful peace of documentary film making.
Director: Matthew Saleh
Runtime: 102 minutes