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Flour. Water. Salt. Repeat.

I have been meaning to blog about this project, BREAD, for awhile now. In the era of gluten-free everything, my confession is that I LOVE bread. All kinds. Dark & sour, white & fluffy, flat, round... even the rectangular bread-baker variety. Bread is common to all cultures. It is a food that crosses class, yet allows for cultural distinction to be preserved. As people migrate around the world they bring their recipes for bread with them, and cultural sharing ensues.

This project, BREAD, produced by the National Film Board of Canada's Digital Studio and created by theatre artist, social activist (and farmer) Mariette Sluyter, captures both the accessibility and depth of this wunder-food. Tapping into the stories of six women who come from different backgrounds but are united by their lifelong practice of bread-baking, the project intrinsically -- through its clever egalitarian structure and personal storytelling -- gets to the heart of what bread is all about: love.

The women are incredibly candid about their lives. In various short videos they pound dough, roll it out, and shape it, while discussing their diverse stories. One woman recalls WWII in Europe, and how she travelled with her father, a woodworker, to deliver child-sized coffins to villages that had been decimated by Typhoid fever. Somehow when you watch the video, her efficient measuring of flour and water as she makes her bread -- the determination with which she goes about this task -- underlines her determination to move past the painful memories. Another woman describes the awful rituals at residential school while she fries what looks like the best fry-bread in the west.

The project is an example of what happens when art sets out to address a lack in society. In this case, Mariette Sluyter developed a bread baking program for seniors in Calgary, as a way to break down cultural barriers and combat social isolation. When the participants began to know and trust one another, and share their life stories, Sluyter realized the depth of the vein she had tapped. She then approached NFB producer Teri Snelgrove to see what might be done in terms of preserving these stories for posterity. Not to mention preserving the women's recipes for bread. I got involved as a digital producer to edit the women's stories and help develop the idea for the interactive treatment.

In this way, BREAD came about. Part social project, part web-based interactive storytelling experiment, part recipe repository. It's well worth a look -- though, warning: it will make you hungry - gluten be dammed!


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