Kampai! For the Love of Sake

Perhaps because it’s about a pale food that turns into a clear-to-whitish liquid served in tiny receptacles, Mirai Konishi’s Kampai! For the Love of Sake — about the famed Japanese rice wine — lacks the visceral tastiness often found in other foodie documentaries such as City of Gold, Deli Man, or especially The Search for General Tso. Kampai! looks at three individuals living in Japan: Kosuke Kuji, who was born into the business and who’s determined to shake it up; John Gauntner, an American journalist known in some circles as the “Sake Evangelist,” who still can’t seem to believe his luck to getting to write and talk about his favorite beverage; and Philip Harper, an Englishman who became the first foreign master brewer. Kampai! juggles its narratives clumsily, with Harper’s story the least engaging, and not nearly enough time given to the impact of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on sake production. It doesn’t help that the final product is only slightly more visually interesting than Soylent, and much like last week’s Racing to Zero spotlighted a San Francisco business which has since been shuttered, Kampai! For the Love of Sake celebrates a sake brewery in North Carolina that has gone out of business in the meantime. Time waits for no one, not even sake.

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