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Australia 2012
Directed by
Trevor Graham
77 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Make Hummus Not War

Synopsis: What is hummus? Who invented it? Who makes it the best? Documentary-makerTrevor Graham sets out to answer these vital questions.

Be warned! Trevor Graham’s documentary should only be watched with a bowl of hummus to hand. If there, isn’t your craving for the dish will torment you throughout its relatively short running time.

Hummus, a combination of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice, served with bread and a dash of olive oil, is an unassuming affair but the passions that it excites are anything but. In this documentary, rather than its delectable appearance, it is the enthusiasm of its makers and consumers, from home cooks and their families to restaurateurs and their clients that makes your mouth water. You’ll simply want to dip in with them.

The general premise of Make Hummus Not War is that the “hummus war” between Lebanon, Israel and Palestine over the ownership of the dish is a perfect analogue of the broader Arab-Jewish conflict in the region. It is an idea certainly borne out as proselytizers from both sides come up with arguments as to why they are the rightful heirs, sling off at the counter-claimants, make accusations of theft, mendacity and arrogance and, above all, sing the praises of the much-loved dish. Any sign of accord is, at best, remote, and the conflict, at both a culinary and a geo-political level, looks set to go on for a long time, particularly as once we leave the domestic and restaurant environment the delicious dip assumes industrial proportions as a supermarket shelf consumable worth millions of dollars in the booming US market.

Make Hummus Not War is a lightly entertaining diversion, more suited to television than the big screen and there is only so much that Graham can do with his material. He ekes it out with some animated illustrations in a Terry Gilliam cut-out style and, more dubiously, self-indulgent references to his personal love life, he apparently having an attraction to women of a Middle Eastern persuasion, hence his familiarity with hummus. This latter material should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Whether this doco will do anything for peace in the Middle East is arguable but that it will stimulate a surge of hummus eating is unquestionable.




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