NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on October 3, 2021
In a small farming village in Greece known as Elias, a pair of cousins come up with an idea to give their small and dying town a boost. This pair of cousins have this theory that playing Wagner music to tomato crops will help them taste better and if they can cultivate enough tomatoes to mass-produce some organic tomato recipes, they can sell those around the world and revive their little town. So, with the help of a bunch of grannies from the local village, the start of an organic stuffed tomato business is in the works and time will tell how it works out for them.
When Tomatoes Met Wagner is a very calm tranquil little film, mostly taking place on the farm where the tomatoes are being played Richard Wagner music through several large speakers strategically placed around the assorted tomato bushes. There’s a peace to everything we’re seeing for the early part of the film, watching as this little business slowly starts forming. We hang out with the grannies, watch the cousins figure out just how to prepare and package the tomatoes and even see a bunch of school children coming around as part of an exchange program.
As When Tomatoes Met Wagner goes on, however, the problems slowly start to mount up on this little idea. Things like trying to produce large enough amounts to be shippable with their team of about 20 people to having to label everything by hand (a label that’s later called out for not looking great by a storeowner) to just trying to figure out the recipes. Each hurdle makes it seem like there might be a chance that this little business might end up not working out, though we never find out either way. Why would we, the potential success of the company is not the point of the film.
What When Tomatoes Met Wagner is mostly about is about a plucky little start-up company trying to make it without using the same methods that industrial farming would. We watch, step by step, as this collective of creatives try and find their own way in a very tough industry. The ups and the downs, the laughter among the grannies (who seem like such fun people that you kinda wanna just listen to their conversations for hours) and the glimmer of delight when they see their product on shelves.
When Tomatoes Met Wagner is also really well-paced, it only really drags during one moment when a competing documentary crew turns up to get some footage of what’s going on. It’s a weird little bit that feels like it’s there to show us just how people are receiving what this little farm is doing but it never works and just kind of stops the film dead in its tracks… plus it’s just weird that in the middle of this documentary being made we have to watch people making a completely different documentary.
Where When Tomatoes Met Wagner works its best is when we’re just watching our core group of cousins and grannies working together to create something special. There’s a simple magic in those moments that really comes across on screen. It’s so sweet and fascinating that you can’t look away. Turns out it’s incredibly possible to make picking tomatoes and mixing them with thyme into something that’s completely engaging to watch.
When Tomatoes Met Wagner is a delightful glimpse into the world of independent artisanal stuffed tomato making, which is a thing that I didn’t expect to be so completely engaged by but I was. The people are charming, the work is interesting and besides a brief moment where things go a little quiet, it’s just a simple and engaging little hour with a bunch of nice people. A very easy watch that will certainly charm more than a few.
Viewed as part of the FoodxFilm Festival which goes from September 26th until October 3rd