For 30 years, soft-spoken chef Jimmy Lee Hill has run a highly regarded culinary training program out of a prison in Coldwater, Mich., offering inmates a renewed sense of purpose through the craft of fine dining while demonstrating the life-changing potential that trust and compassion can offer the incarcerated. As we watch the prison’s bountiful garden cycle through Michigan’s four seasons, we follow Hill and three of his students — a juvenile lifer imprisoned for decades, a hotshot cook with a serious opioid addiction, and a former drug dealer on parole — as they struggle to adapt to different stages of incarceration, re-entry and redemption using food as a catalyst for positive change.
COLDWATER KITCHEN is a timely film that comes as the national conversation around the criminal justice system — which touches 1 out of 3 Americans — has begun to shift, moving from punishment to habilitation and into an area where there may be rare bi-partisan support for reforms.
Through the interwoven and diverse stories of our characters, we subtly address some of the most pressing questions of our time. Namely: What is prison for? Who and why does it affect certain communities? How can we make it more humane? What kind of reforms are needed? And what does rehabilitation even mean?
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BRIAN KAUFMAN, CO-DIRECTOR/ EDITOR/PRODUCER
BRIAN KAUFMAN is the executive video producer for the Detroit Free Press. His work has been awarded four national Emmy awards and was recently part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning package on President Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico. His most recent film, 12TH & CLAIRMOUNT, which tells the story of Detroit’s 1967 riot/rebellion, screened at DOC NYC and Full Frame in 2017.
MARK KURLYANDCHIK, CO-DIRECTOR/ EDITOR/PRODUCER
When MARK KURLYANDCHIK began work on COLDWATER KITCHEN, he was the Detroit Free Press’ restaurant critic. He has since left the paper to pursue a career blending his food expertise and background in documentary film. He honed his filmmaking skills at the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism under the tutelage of legendary doc filmmakers Jon Else and Orlando Bagwell. Kurlyandchik is the recipient of two Michigan Emmy awards. His previous film, DINNER IN ABRUZZO, a short documentary about two chefs’ journey to Italy, screened at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival and the Napa Valley Film Festival.