I had read some truly glowing reviews of this documentary, City of Gold, but unlike most movie reviews, something clicked for me and I thought to myself, I want to see this if it comes out here. It is about Jonathan Gold, a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic for the Los Angeles Times. Admittedly, that doesn't sound super compelling, right? But something piqued my attention and I went with it. I noticed that it was showing in one of our smaller theaters this weekend, where movies screen for about 5 days before they disappear, so I jumped on the opportunity.
I'm glad I went with my gut. Simply put, I absolutely loved this film. I chuckled at multiple points, and caught myself just smiling at several other vignettes and scenes. I cannot think of one thing that could be improved. Certainly, it is understated in pace and cinematography -- for one thing, it's a documentary, so no special effects here! But it tells a marvelous story, not really just of a portly food critic, but of the city of Los Angeles for the last few decades. This film captures the wonder and complexity of Southern CA in a way I have never seen.
At multiple points you will want to reach out and grab the food he is eating... We get a mouth-watering feast (forgive the pun) of sights and sounds as he eats Persian, Thai, Mexican, Salvadoran, Korean and Ethiopian cuisine.. His affection for the food and for those who prepare it is palpable. As one chef said, there is no food reviewer with greater empathy.
One of my favorite quotes from Gold: "The idea of celebrating the glorious mosaic of the city on somebody else's dime... I kept feeling like I was getting away with something."
I think this begins to capture why this film was so enjoyable for me. Los Angeles (and so much of California) IS a glorious mosaic, and the mind reels at the many peoples and languages living there on top of one another. But in the midst of seeing the beautiful meals that Gold eats, we also hear stories of how people's lives are changed by making good food and by Gold then reviewing them positively. Steadily, the film moved from enjoyable to moving as we went through the various neighborhoods, many of which I recognized. Gold is described by many as having been an advocate for them, speaking up for their food before anyone else did. And as a result, ushering so many people into new worlds and cultures.
One of the reviews stated that City of Gold "provides a telling insight into multicultural society..." That was what was so profound for me as I watched. This is much of what I am devoting my life to these days, wading through the various struggles and small victories that come with trying to bridge cultural and social divides. Some days it seems like there is nothing I would rather do, and other days it feels so complex.
Recently I heard Soong Chan Rah, an esteemed sociologist, pastor and theologian, define a profound shift in Christendom: in 1900, 83% of Christians were in Europe or North America (Caucasian) and thus 17% were non-white; in 2005... get this: 40% of Christians were Caucasian, and 60%were non-white! The projections for 2050 are that Christians will be 29% white and 71% other races. And these statistics are not just descriptive of the church. This is what is unfolding in the world, as the Global South is explodes in population and commerce, and the West declines in population and power. As we are seeing every day in the news, these shifts are tumultuous and terrifying for many.
So what I saw in City of Gold was not just a lovely film about the diversity of crazy ol' Los Angeles; what I saw was a picture of our future. And it thrilled me!
How I pray that the church will not just embrace, but lead the way in bridging the divides among us. This new reality is not something to fear! So many times in church and at conferences I have heard Revelation 7:9 held up as a vision of promise:
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
Yet we do not talk enough about the blood, sweat and tears, day after day, year after year, that it will take to usher in this eternal hope. I do not want to give too much away, but there is an especially dear scene at the end of the film that captures the divides that still exist. One can tell that Gold wants to do his small part to bring neighbors together. I pray we will each do the same.