Coldwater Kitchen (2022)

Directed by Brian Kaufman and Mark Kurlyandchik

For 30 years, Chef Jimmy Lee Hill has dedicated himself to the gourmet culinary training program he leads at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan. The pioneering program gives prisoners a prestigious skill they can take back into the workforce and provides a sense of purpose as they serve their time. As he enters his senior years, tensions arise over Chef Hill’s faith in a particular trainee.

Seattle International Film Festival 2023: Film #1

Often interesting and compelling, but it changes narrative direction too many times throughout, and so despite the life-and-death themes, it remains emotionally lightweight as a whole. This actually felt like a deliberate decision at times (or was an inherent limitation in what the film was legally allowed to portray), as many pivotal character revelations are enigmatically skimmed over. It also felt reluctant to leave the relative safety of the 'feel-good' documentary championing a liberal cause, and so the result is that its almost-unique opportunity to use the universality of food to explore (say) the potential connection between chefs and addiction is somewhat squandered. Just to take one example from many, the inmate released after 35 years behind bars would have been a perfect lens through which to sketch the social, economic, cultural and culinary changes wrought upon the Detroit 313 in the past few decades, but like almost all of the threads that are briefly raised in this film, this one was not energetically pursued.