Feature: Wexner Center’s Field and Screen series

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From the January 31, 2013 edition

Q: What do these have in common: sumptuous shots of a Japanese master sushi chef’s hard-won art contrasted with fish-on-a-stick, “Sushi Poppers” machine-produced in America; a behind-the-kitchen-door peek into the stunning creations and brilliant minds of perfectionist French chefs; and rogue snowmobiling crews hoping to complete sketchily conceived odysseys from Minnesota to Moscow?

A: They’re all part of the Wexner Center’s Field and Screen series, a month-long buffet of movies exploring the interplay of humans with their food sources and environment.

As with any skillfully prepared spread, the fourth year of Field and Screen’s offerings range from bite-size treats to substantial entrees — but all of it looks to be brainy and entertaining. For instance, that gracefully progressing, science-spiced, aforementioned sushi movie (“Sushi: The Global Catch”) unfolds against a worldwide-ecosystem-threatening backdrop of overfished bluefin tuna. The poignant “Step Up to the Plate” (following chef Michel Bras — inventor of the locavore dream salad called “gargouillou” — and his son/heir Sebastien) is the rare documentary with the visual and dramatic impact of artfully crafted and acted narrative film. And the wacky, dangerous and “often true” 1970s-era snowmobiling escapades baked into “Wild Bill’s Run” are a combination of Jack London-style survival stories, merry prankster-esque misadventures and Captain Ahab-like mania that makes for a flavor-packed, all-American casserole.

Among Field and Screen’s other intriguing movies are a Borgesian attempt to map “every square inch” of a remote island in the Azores (“It’s the Earth Not the Moon”); a politically charged history of the conservation movement and environmental activism called “A Fierce Green Fire” narrated by the likes of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep that was written and directed by Mark Kitchell (Oscar-nominated for the important “Berkeley in the Sixties”); and a couple of flicks that were locally sourced.

From that latter group is “Inside the Whale,” which documents Columbus artist Matt Kish and his “Moby Dick in Pictures” — a spellbinding art book that contains “one drawing for every page” of Melville’s masterpiece. Also flaunting local roots is “Don’t Break Down,” Columbus filmmaker Matt Meindl’s giddy-sounding conception of an afterlife for urban garbage. Meindl’s movie, along with “Bestiaire” (“an almost surrealist meditation on the relationship between nature and humanity”) kicks off the series on Feb. 1.

“Now, Forager” (Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin, 2012) -- Image courtesy of Argot Pictures

“Sushi: The Global Catch” (Mark Hall, 2012) -- Image courtesy of Kino Lorber