A Fine Line
Explores why less than 7% of head chefs and restaurant owners are women, when traditionally women have always held the central role in the kitchen.
Directed by Joanna James
Produced by Joanna James, Katy Jordan
Editor: Russell Greene, Joanna James
Director of Photography: Robert Featherstone
Composer: Petros Klampanis
A Zoel Productions film
Featuring intimate interviews with world-renowned chefs like Dominique Crenn, Lidia Bastianich, Cat Cora, Elena Arzak, Elizabeth Falkner, Maria Loi, Sylvia Weinstock, Michael Anthony and others, A FINE LINE explores pressing issues faced by women in the culinary arts and across all industries, including sexual and workplace harassment, access to capital, unequal pay, and lack of paid family leave and affordable childcare.
"Heartfelt film reveals the structural inequalities that make life in restaurants more challenging for women." Rachel Black, Asst Prof, Anthropology, Connecticut College
An uplifting American success story about perseverance, family, and food, A FINE LINE follows the personal story of Valerie James, a small town restaurateur with a larger than life personality who raised Joanna as a single mother on a mission to do what she loves while raising two kids and the odds stacked against her.
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2020
Copyright Date: 2017
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-55-0
"Timely and evocative_The gendered inequalities in the food industry are laid bare and the resilience of women chefs is showcased. What we get is a hopeful narrative about change which does not sugarcoat the real struggles of women who labor in this environment. This film would be a welcome addition to undergraduate courses on women and work, food and culture, and introductory courses in sociology, economics, history, or anthropology which focus on labor."
Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelón, Associate Professor, Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, University of California-Davis
"This is a relatable, heart-warming film about a woman's struggle to succeed in a male-dominated restaurant world. With notable appearances from top female chefs, viewers will learn about the ways that inequality is embedded in the food world, but also how some remarkable women (including the filmmaker's own mother) managed to succeed and inspire others."
Josée Johnston, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto
"A Fine Line masterfully explores the challenges of women becoming successful head chefs. Using personal stories, the film exposes the unequal treatment of women, while creatively offering correctives from the experiences of women who have found success against the odds. A great resource for anyone looking to understand the need for gender equality and to break barriers in the food industry."
Naomi R Williams, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, Rutgers University
"Joanna James' heartfelt film reveals the structural inequalities that make life in restaurants more challenging for women. Stories like that of James' mother demonstrate women's strengths and ability to rise above. This film is an inspiration that will help open eyes to the gender inequality that exists in the back of the house at most restaurants. A Fine Line showcases women's entrepreneurial strengths, creativity, and mastery in the kitchen."
Rachel Black, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Connecticut College, Author, On the Line: Women, Cuisine and Work in France (forthcoming)
"A Fine Line is a testament to women in the food industry...Throughout the entire film I couldn't help but feel the empowerment of all these different women fighting their way to the top. All these women and many more out there have fought to earn their recognition."
Karen Garcia, New Times San Luis Obispo
"Illuminate[s] how challenges of mentorship, access to capital, child care, and maternal leave have shaped opportunities for women in the restaurant industry."
Michael Floreak, Boston Globe
"The film seamlessly weaves between the chefs' perspectives and experiences rising up the ranks and Valerie's up-close and personal story empowering women and men alike to follow their dreams."
The National Herald
"A Fine Line highlights the respect that women deserve as an inspiration for a host of both female and male chefs...The film is an excellent resource for a classroom setting, showing students that while women's work tends to be devalued in society, those female chefs who focus on the collaborative aspects of the food and restaurant industry, often relying on the strengths and mutual respect of the entire staff, become successful in their own right. This lesson is applicable to many business sectors, but is especially relevant in an industry that has been plagued by sexism and is reckoning with a myriad of Me Too-related scandals."
Dr. Monique Mironesco, Professor of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, West O'ahu
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DVD features include SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
Awards and Festivals
Best Documentary Feature, Provincetown International Film Festival
The Women's Film Festival
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
GlobeDocs Film Festival
Napa Valley Film Festival
Devour! The Food Film Festival
High Falls Women's Film Festival
Los Angeles Greek Film Festival
Provincetown International Film Festival
Borderlands Film Festival
Food And Nutrition
Labor and Work Issues
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