Movie Information

The documentary about Montreal's Jewish history and culinary scene closes out the 2019 Asheville Jewish Film Festival.
Genre: Documentary
Director: Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion
Starring: Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion
Rated: NR

An entirely appropriate feature for closing night of this year’s Asheville Jewish Film Festival, Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal will serve as a true appetizer for the reception to follow next door at the Blue Spiral 1 gallery.

The hourlong documentary follows Canadian comedy duo Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman (of the web series YidLife Crisis) on a trip through the history and eateries of their hometown. The hosts are funny in their unpolished fashion, but the real star of the movie is Zev Moses, the executive director of the Museum of Jewish Montreal and our guide for most of the trip.

Zev seems to know everything about every building the trio strolls past, and the stories are revelatory and fascinating, tracing the history of Montreal’s Jewish community across more than 200 years. With his narration, what appears to be a slightly run-down neighborhood reveals its hidden stories in unassuming storefronts, bits of stonework and weathered metal signs.

And, of course, there’s also the food, the documentary’s premise being that Eli and Jamie will eat their way through a day, from breakfast to lunch (twice), through snacks to a double helping of dinner, plus desserts. Mostly they’re highlighting a community’s comfort foods — less aesthetically appealing than redolent of familiarity and tradition.

Eli and Jamie are a kind of homier version of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon from the Trip movies, but Chewdaism is a few notches above the former duo’s YouTube offerings. Its multitude of historical photos and additional experts pack in a lot of stories and local bygone figures who might be otherwise overlooked.

Showing at 7 p.m. April 11 (with reception, $25) and 1 p.m. April 12 ($10) at the Fine Arts Theatre.


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