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The Hundred-Foot Journey Producer Juliet Blake Talks Strong Female Characters, Cultural Difference, and Cuisine

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Answers by Juliet Blake, Producer of The Hundred-Foot Journey

Part Two of Juliet Blake's Reflections on The Hundred-Foot Journey...

What impact do films like The Hundred-Foot Journey that feature strong female characters have on the audience?

I'd like to think that it's empowering. You see all the characters change during the movie. We know that Helen Mirren's character, who had lost her husband, has kept this restaurant open for 30 years. She also won a Michelin star a long time ago when her husband was alive. When you meet her in the beginning of the film, she's a very strong character but you don't realize that she has this warmth. She seems to be quite a lonely person who is running this restaurant, but you don't feel like she has a life. And as her arc continues, you realize that there's a real heart -- and she won't allow bad things to happen in her village without actually taking a stand and changing things.

With the character of Marguerite -- she's not a pushover either. What I love about that character is that even though it's a romantic role and Charlotte Le Bon plays it so beautifully, Steven Knight has written it so well and Lasse has obviously directed it well, so she's a feisty character. She's a feisty girl who doesn't take any nonsense from Hassan. When she feels that he is threatening her position in the kitchen that she is working in (because he's now going to be working there as well), she doesn't take that lying down.

I think the role models for women are good -- I have two daughters in their twenties and they are really strong, tough women. I love that about them. In the work that I do with TED, we always make sure that we have a lot of talks from women -- we're very much equal opportunists. I preach diversity, but I also live it. When you look at a film and stories that I want to tell, they're stories that are about real people and the real world.

How does the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey approach the issue of cultural differences, which is one of the key themes of the film?

Well, I hope that we haven't been heavy-handed in the way that we address cultural differences in the movie. When people leave the theater, the first thing I want them to be is hungry -- I want them to go and have a really good meal. But over that meal, I hope that they're sitting with friends, and I hope that they then will talk about the themes of the movie, and that audiences will realize that we're actually all very much the same. The differences may be seen in the color of our skin, but really our hearts are all the same. We all really like to eat a good meal and we all know what's right and wrong. There are so many terrible things that are happening in the world all the time and racism is sadly alive and well over the world. I hope that his film makes people think about that and think about embracing similarities rather than differences.

What are the elements of the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey that people can relate to the most?

What I love about the film is that it has many different themes. It has themes of family, the importance of home, and immigration (which is such a topic). It has love, knowing that food is a great leveler of people and that it's a wonderful thing to bring a community together. In this era where fusion food is really important, I'd like people to think about not just fusion food but how we can fuse different cultures and different societies together.

Given that gourmet cuisine is a major theme in the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, what does the food in the film symbolize?

Well first, the director Lasse is a vegan, and I'm a vegetarian, and so I think that for me it wasn't so much about the recipes in the film, but more what food in the film represented. There are all these different kinds of food in the film, and each kind of food represents something different. The Indian food to me represents the freeing of the spirit, the ability to have spice in your life. Not just the spice in your food but to be risk takers and to make that journey and to really embrace the heat -- the heat in life. When you go into Madame Mallory's restaurant, the food is very classical and beautiful. I can absolutely appreciate that, but it's such a difference to the Indian food -- and then in Paris, the food is so molecular and scientific. Each one of those reflects a part of Hassan's journey. He comes from India, and that's where his gift for cooking is born. He goes through a journey with all four different kitchens in the movie -- the kitchen that he was in as a child in Mumbai, the Mumbai restaurant he has with his family in the South of France, Madame Mallory's kitchen, and then the kitchen in Paris where they're cooking with blowtorches and dry ice and it's all stainless steel; and there's nothing warm about it. That and the notion of fusion are what really propel the story and the characters. It's not just fusion between French cuisine and Indian cuisine. It's cultural fusion, and that's what I'm really interested in.

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