Documentarian Laura Gabbert approaches her subjects with heart and warmth; and though her work has a sense of humor, it's refreshingly free of dismissiveness or snark. Whatever the topic she's taking on (aging, activism, and the everyday importance—and challenge—of eco-conscious living are some she has explored), she has a gift for finding the tender heart and the universal relevance of a story. I discovered her wonderful Sunset Story—which centers on two women who meet while living at the Sunset Hall nursing home, in Los Angeles, and become dear friends—when it debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003 and have followed her work since then. Her latest, City of Gold, which profiles celebrated Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold and is currently in theaters in cities nationwide, brings viewers in to each meal that's served and each personal history behind the restaurants Gold visits.
Gold is the first journalist in his category to win (in 2007) a Pulitzer Prize. His focus as a critic tends to be on smaller, lesser-known establishments serving ethnic cuisine—though they don't stay under the radar for long after he reviews them. (More than one proprietor in the film describes, with happy shock, the tremendous increase in business brought on by Gold's attention.) The film accompanies him in his explorations of these restaurants in the Los Angeles area and the cultures from which they spring.
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Working with Gold helped Gabbert forge a deep sense of connection with L.A.'s culinary scene—even though she has lived in the city for more than 20 years. "The city is vast!" she says. "Part of what makes Los Angeles interesting is that you have to seek out experiences here. They probably won't fall right into your lap when you walk out the door. Jonathan Gold's work means a lot to Angelenos because he helps them to see L.A. in a deeper, richer way and encourages them to embrace new cultures and foods."