The Cinematic Arts Workshop at UL will première a new documentary film celebrating the humble plate lunch house June 7, 2008.

The film, Raised on Rice and Gravy, will debut on Saturday, June 7, at 3 p.m. at the Bayou Bijou Theatre inside the Student Union on the campus of the University of Louisiana.

“People used to come home to eat lunch with their families,” explained folklorist Conni Castille, the film’s co-director. “For farmers and laborers, it was an important daily ritual to sit down and share the midday meal at home. That’s not possible today, so neighborhood plate lunch houses have become a substitute for that in South Louisiana culture.”

Directed by Castille and Allison Bohl, Raised on Rice and Gravy offers a local’s look at the kind of authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine that Acadiana natives serve themselves, not the tourists: chicken stew, smothered potatoes, and stuffed turkey wings. But just as important as the food, Castille says, is the role that these modest restaurants play in the community.

“They serve the kind of food that so many of us were raised on... whether Cajun or Creole, you grew up on rice and gravy,” she said. “These restaurants are a place where folks come together as regulars, and share a little common heritage. It’s like going home for lunch.” Raised on Rice and Gravy captures the communal quality of the local lunch hour, where cooks and customers talk face to face across the serving line, trade news about their families, talk about gardening or fishing, or why fried pork chops aren’t served on Mondays. “That doesn’t happen in fast food drive-thrus,” Castille said.

Mostly known only to locals, Acadiana has an extraordinary number of plate lunch restaurants. It is impossible to include all of them in a 30-minute documentary, so to illustrate their story the filmmakers chose to focus on three: Creole Lunch House on 12th Street; Gary’s on Lamar Street; and Country Cuisine on University Avenue.

Funded in part by a Folklife grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Raised on Rice and Gravy is the second documentary from directing team Castille and Bohl. Their 2007 release, I Always Do My Collars First: A Film About Ironing, won awards from film festivals around the country and earned them the “Louisiana Filmmaker Award” from last year’s New Orleans Film Festival.

“A lot of filmmakers emphasize the informational nature of documentaries,” Bohl said. “With both Collars First and now, Rice and Gravy, we try to make our films about creative expression. We think documentaries should be artistic, not just informative. That’s the guiding philosophy of the Cinematic Arts Workshop.”

Professor Charles E. Richard, Director of the Cinematic Arts Workshop at the UL produced both films. "Raised on Rice and Gravy really exemplifies the core values of the Workshop and our films,” said Richard. “It’s a close, creative look at how something so small and ordinary, like plate lunches, can embody those big things that we value most about our native culture.”

Raised on Rice and Gravy will debut at the Bayou Bijou Theater in the UL Student Union, 600 McKinley St., on Saturday, June 7th, at 3:00 pm. A rice-and-gravy reception will follow. Admission is free. For more information, call (337) 277-5292, or e-mail conni@louisiana.edu.


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