The pull of the pão
CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
No discussion about Goa and Goan culture is complete without a mention of its delicious food. And while the simple pão (Goan bread) may not be at the top of the list, there is no doubt that it forms an indelible part of Goa.
“There is something about pão that really captures the imagination of people and stays with them, even among those visiting Goa. I recently learnt of a little boy who whenever he comes down to Goa just loves eating pão,” says Sonia Filinto, who decided to go ahead and explore this traditional occupation further through film.
Born and raised Goa, Filinto has worked in Dubai and Mumbai making documentaries, and special features for television. A few years ago she did a short film ‘Shifting Sands’ which centred on the traditional ramponkars (fishermen) of Goa primarily in Calangute.
This time around, she was looking for a way to present a look of contemporary Goa and how to talk about change. “At the same time, I was also looking at bakers, which is something a lot of us have grown up with, trying to show how it is a part of our culture. And then these two independent things that I was working on came together after I realised that this traditional occupation is also a journey of change,” discloses Filinto, adding that she also realised that this was the perfect way to tell a story as food really connects people.
Her documentary film ‘Pão,’ which is currently in post-production stage looks at two bakeries in Goa and a bakers festival – ‘Poderachem Fest’, an annual festival organised in Goa.
“We focused on the small bakeries which make bread the traditional way over a wood fire, the ones in the corners of villages which have no name. While all the bakeries were very helpful and open to filming, we zeroed in on two which had really unique stories to tell,” states Filinto, adding that they shot for around a year. One was a family run bakery where the members have been baking bread for generations. The other, says Filinto, was representative of the void left by Goan bakers who have left the state. The film provides an intimate portrayal of the people from these places. And it all ties together with a heartfelt meal over bread.
“For this meal which was hosted at an ancestral house of a Portuguese man with Goan origins, we invited people who are involved in bread in some form or the other and got them to share a meal of bread and have a free wheel conversation about bread,” states Filinto. Among those who were part of the meal was chef Floyd Cardoz who is of Goan origin and who is based in New York where he makes pao. He also has two restaurants in Mumbai – O Pedro and Bombay Canteen. Fatima De Silva Gracias, who has written books on Goan history and is an expert on bread was also part of the meal, as was Goan historian Prajal Sakhardande.
And Filinto also learnt quite a bit in the process of making the film. “Bread is such a part and parcel of life in Goa so it was quite an eye opener to realise that making bread is quite a time sensitive trade. Every second counts. If you take the bread out of the oven a little before or a little after the right time, it can change the whole feel and taste of it. Even going out selling the bread is time sensitive. If the bread man is delayed, the customer is kept waiting,” says Filinto.
Apart from this she also realised just how fragile traditional occupations are, adding that the biggest challenge they face is in getting the required labour. “It’s not just traditional bakers in Goa, traditional occupations all over the world are facing a threat but you can’t really blame people for wanting to better their life. But when you are losing a traditional occupation you are also losing a part of your identity,” she says.
‘Pão’ is currently crowd funding for post-production on Wishberry. The campaign ends on January 16, 2019. It’s an all-or-nothing campaign which means if the target is not achieved, funders get their money back.
Hopeful that the film will get completed, Filinto then hopes to show the film to as many people as possible. “I believe that it is not just a story of Goa but also a universal story of people working as part to continue their legacy,” she says.