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TIFF: Julia

Julia Child was a revolutionary. In a time when home cooks were looking for anything canned, boxed or frozen in order to ease the burden of housewives, Julia Child came on the air touting French cuisine with all its complexities. But she did so in a way that taught folks on the other side of the television screen how to  step up their game in the kitchen with materials they already had at home and food they could get at their grocery store. Child started a movement that made television cooking something that people watched for both entertainment and pleasure. She also sparked a culinary renaissance bringing back the fine art of cooking to the US.

Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, best known for their documentary RBG, Julia is a celebration of one of the greatest and most important icons of the 20th century. The doc follows Julia’s story from her early days in Pasadena, her secretarial work abroad during WWII, her marriage to her beloved Paul Child, her culinary education in France, her first cookbook, her work in Boston for PBS and her ever enduring fame that made her a national sensation. Having grown up in the Boston area, I watched Julia Child cook on my local PBS station WGBH. And over the years since her death in 2004 and the many celebrations during her centennial year in 2012, I knew Julia Child was special. But Cohen and West’s documentary really drove that home.

The documentary boasts amazing food photography woven in with archival footage of Julia Child in the kitchen, personal photographs and letters, audio recordings of Child talking about her life, as well as interviews. Talking heads include celebrity chefs she directly influenced, family members, friends and many others. Foodies will recognize some big names in the cooking world including Ina Garten, Sara Moulton, Jacques Pepin, Ruth Reichl, Jose Andres and many more. Cohen and West do a fantastic job adding context to Julia’s story while also conveying her spirit, her warmth, her tenacity and her willingness to learn and evolve. I laughed, I cried and afterwards I was starving!

Julia is part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival’s TIFF Docs slate. Visit the Sony Pictures Classics website for more details about the film.

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