A Taste of Sky
TYPE: Documentary Feature
In South America's poorest country an innovative cooking school and world-class restaurant is offering the possibility of hope to the country’s impoverished youth.
In the dizzying heights of Bolivia's capital of La Paz a gastronomical revolution is offering the possibility of hope to the country’s impoverished youth. We follow the trials and tribulations of the students of GUSTU, the innovative cooking school and world-class restaurant of South America's poorest country.
My introduction to Gustu came while traveling through Bolivia in early 2014. After a spectacular meal and conversation with head chef Kamilla Seidler, I was taken on a tour of the restaurant and began to meet some of the students. Soon they came to know me as “Chino” and friendships grew as I returned to the restaurant again and heard more about their journeys from the slums to Gustu. What I discovered was a progressive but controversial social experiment that was simultaneously growing into one of the world’s most celebrated restaurants- yet no one was there to chronicle its evolution. No one was there to follow the personal stories of its’ students and trace their incredible paths to success. No one was capturing the rapidly changing atmosphere that would forever alter Bolivian culture. Leaving La Paz, I made a vow to the students that I would return with a camera, a crew and help share their story with the world. Creatively my filmmaking team and I aim to present a unique experience that showcases the dichotomy of the two vastly different worlds which have come to a collision at Gustu. On one end there are the rugged third-world landscapes of Bolivia. A country defined by the vibrant greenery of the Amazon, the endless crystal oceans of the world’s largest salt flats and the breathtaking views of La Paz: a city literally nestled in the clouds. In addition to these jaw-dropping vistas there are the Bolivian people themselves and we intend to follow them: into their homes, through their sacred rituals and deep into the villages of the dozens of ethnic groups that some of the students hail from. These scenes will carry a textured and raw visual aesthetic. Simultaneously there is the world of Gustu and for sequences detailing the preparation of food we hope to capture the painstaking effort of cooking with a cleaner look to symbolize the Scandinavian roots of the project. We believe an individual’s movements in their craft is a reflection of their personality and these sequences will transcend the conventions of a food film and into a character study. Rather than simply presenting a specific step of food preparation, we want edit the film in a way so that we thread a line tying into a character’s memory and see what motivates each move. Even though our frame will be at times dominated by the epic backdrops of Bolivia’s natural wonders our focus will be devoted to finding the intimate scenes of the students’ lives. Aided by a lyrical, roaming camera, we aim to create a poetic, subtly moving piece that presents a part of the world which has rarely been seen. Ultimately the tone will be nothing short of inspirational. There is a special kind of magic unfolding in Bolivia and we want to capture that indescribable energy. Leaving the film, we want audiences to feel what the students are feeling: blissful joy in the face of infinite possibility.
Michael Y. Lei - Director | Producer
Born in China and raised in New Orleans, New York City and San Francisco. Since graduating from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Michael has directed acclaimed music videos which have been featured on VICE & MTV. His narrative short film “Catch a Monster” was selected to premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and has continued to screen at various festivals around the world. He has been recognized as a fellow by both the Points North Fellowship of the Camden International Film Festival as well as the San Francisco Film Society Filmhouse Residency program. Most recently he was selected to participate in the 2017 Film Independent Documentary Lab. Additionally he has worked as personal photographer to Joe Walsh of the Eagles and extensively photographed high profile artists such as the xx, Alt-J, and Outkast for various publications.
Andrew F. Renzi - Producer
Andrew Renzi’s first narrative feature film “The Benefactor” (aka “Franny”), starring Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, and Theo James, is slated for a 2016 theatrical release by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Previously, he directed two award-winning shorts – “The Fort” (Sundance ’12) and “Karaoke!” (Sundance ’13) – and the award-winning hour long western documentary “Fishtail,” which was acquired by Netflix in 2015. Recently, Andrew co-wrote the Janis Joplin biopic, ”Janis,” with writer/director Sean Durkin (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”). As a producer, Andrew worked on several films including “Afterschool” (Cannes ’08), “Two Gates of Sleep” (Cannes ’10), and “Sympathy for Delicious” (Sundance Special Jury Prize 2010). Additionally, he has produced and directed music videos for bands such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Blondfire, Prodigy, and Zeds Dead, among many others. Most recently, Andrew established NORTH OF NOW ENTERTAINMENT, which will develop and produce feature films and digital content.
Andrew Corkin - Executive Producer
Andrew D Corkin, of Uncorked Productions, is a Gotham Award winning producer. Andrew’s credits include: AFTERSCHOOL (Cannes 2008), MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Sundance 2011, Cannes 2011), AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY (Sundance 2012, Gotham Award winner), WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Sundance 2013, Cannes 2013), WILD CANARIES (SxSW 2014), BIG SIGNIFICANT THINGS (SxSW 2014), EMELIE (Tribeca 2015), THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK (SxSW 2016), Netflix’s MERCY, and Andrew Renzi’s feature debut, THE BENEFACTOR, starring Richard Gere. He is currently producing A VIGILANTE, starring Olivia Wilde. Andrew serves as an adjunct professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Boston University.
Kevin Iwashina - Producer
Kevin is the Founder & CEO of Preferred Content, a film, television and digital sales & finance company. Founded in January 2010, Preferred Content (PC) specializes in the sale of North American and Worldwide distribution rights for both narrative and documentary filmed entertainment content. Additionally, PC represents filmmakers to assemble creative and financial elements for film, TV and digital projects. Recent PC sales projects include I’ll See You In My Dreams and Rodney Ascher's The Nightmare which both premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the 2015 SXSW documentary Rolling Papers and narrative feature The Diabolical and The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Wier acquired worldwide by Netflix as an Original Documentary. PC also produced and handled worldwide sales on the hit documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi released by Magnolia Iwashina holds a B.A. in English Literature with minor in French Language and Culture from U.C.L.A. He is active in the non-profit sector and serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Documentary Association (IDA). He began his career in the mailroom at the United Talent Agency (UTA).
Abby Davis - Co-Producer
Abby is currently the Vice President of Non-Fiction Content at Preferred Content (PC), one of the leading film, television & digital sales and project finance companies. Davis assembles creative and financial elements for PC’s original documentary content as well as handling the worldwide and North American distribution rights for its non-fiction film slate. Recent projects include Tribeca Film Festival premieres Dream/Killer, directed by Andrew Jenks and Palio directed by Cosmia Spender; I Am a Big Bird, directed by Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker; SXSW Audience Award winner A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story and Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winners Rich Hill (Tracy Droz-Tragos) and Blood Brother (Steve Hoover). Davis graduated from Western Michigan University near her hometown of Saginaw, Michigan.
Jeff Louis Peterman - Director of Photography
Jeff is the rare cinematographer that carries both a sensitive eye and an impeccable technical expertise. Born into the film industry and the third generation of a family of Oscar-nominated cinematographers, Jeff has honed his craft in a variety of shorts, commercials, music videos and documentaries. He has photographed projects that have premiered on MTV & Vice and screened at Tribeca and Palm Springs International Shortfest.
Alexander J. Hufschmid - 2nd Unit Director of Photography
Alex was born in London and raised between the US and UK. Since graduating from NYU’s Kanbar Institute of Film and Television & the Tisch School of the Arts, he has worked on a myriad of different documentary projects. Hufschmid's first film as cinematographer, Lives Interrupted: The Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura Story, won best documentary feature at the Independent Filmmakers (IFS) Film Festival 2013 in Los Angeles and went on to air on PBS SoCal. His second film, Greece: The Road Taken recently premiered in LA. His resume ranges from a feature doc investigating Theravada Buddhism in Luang Prabang, Laos, to a political doc following the Lt. Governor campaign of Bakari Sellers (the 1st African American to win statewide office in South Carolina since the Reconstruction). Beyond documentaries, Hufschmid’s experience ranges from music videos -- recently filming DJ / Producer Dillon Francis during his ‘Friends Rule Tour’ for Columbia Records and Sony Records -- to short films and commercials.
John Carey - Composer
Classically trained and emotionally driven, John’s work can be heard across a diverse selection of projects that range from television to motion pictures to video games.
A graduate of the prestigious Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program at the University of Southern California., he has worked as music arranger on films such Avengers: Age of Ultron, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and most recently Truth, starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett.
Additionally his work can be heard on programs such as Hawaii Five-0, Ninjago and The 2015 USGA Golf Tournament.
A Taste of Sky will be his fourth collaboration with director Michael Lei.
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