Oscar-Nominated Lucy Walker Sets New Documentary ‘The Great Oven,’ On Grassroots Food Movement
04 April, 2023
Lucy Walker, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of “Waste Land,” is working on her next ambitious documentary, “The Great Oven” shedding light on a grassroots food movement in the Middle East and South America.
The initiative, which was created in 2019 by James Gomez Thompson and Beirut-born Nour Matraji, has allowed for giant ornate ovens to be distributed to corners of the world that need them the most, including Lebanon and Colombia. Ovens were first delivered to the Lebanese/Syrian border to bring together communities from two sides of a decades- long sectarian conflict.
The character-driven film follows the journey of Gomez Thompson from Lebanon to Colombia, where a diverse group of people have been spearheading the solidarity movement. Many of them have been marginalized, notably stateless youth, refugee families, ex-child fighters and trafficked women.
“What started with something as simple as a community oven has opened a universe I could never imagine possible,” said Gomez Thompson.
The chef said the movement is aimed at “empowering people who have been discarded by society.” They have “demonstrated compassion and hospitality that is a lesson to the rest of the world.”
“These are the ambassadors of food we should look up to (…) and it’s my mission to tell their stories of hope and ingenuity,” Gomez Thompson continued.
The film opens at the Colombian borderlands of La Guajira, where The Great Oven’s collective of refugees-turned-experts team up with the region’s matriarchal indigenous tribe named Wayuu. Together they set out to build more Great Ovens and foster communities around them.
The movement has now garnered the support of big names along the way, notably Nigel Slater, the renown British food writer and broadcaster, who cooked with The Great Oven team in the Beqaa Valley. Other prominent figures who have been championing the initiative include Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, who is currently designing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new $500 million Modern and contemporary art wing. Escobedo recently agreed to design the Great Oven headquarters in Colombia.
Walker’s latest film “Bring Your Own Brigade,” which revolved around wildfires, was released theatrically by Paramount, and streams on Paramount+ and CBSN. It was part of the New York Times’ Top 10 Best Movies of 2021.
The documentary is being produced by Slater, Antonio von Hildebrand, a Colombian film producer, Philippe de Bourbon, a French film producer and executive who previously worked at Canal + where he commissioned the Oscar-nominated “The Invisible War,” along with the Emmy-nominated documentaries “Terror Studio” and “Exodus.” He recently founded Andaman Films and executive produced Sabrina van Tassel’s “The State of Texas vs Melissa.” “The Great Oven” is also produced by Emiliano Mansilla, a well-known Colombian producers who has been working in Mexico, and Stone Douglass, who is currently executive producing Fox Searchlight’s dramatic feature The Greatest Hits, written and directed by Ned Benson.