Tassos Boulmetis’s A Touch of Spice: A Childhood Upended


The problems between the Greeks and the Turks upend a childhood in A Touch of Spice, Tassos Boulmetis’s loose revisitation of his own history as a Greek child raised in Istanbul in the early 1960s. A fixture in his grandfather’s grocery store, young Fanis (Markos Osse) develops a passion for food, spices, and the neighbor girl who comes by to sample (and dance for) his imaginary dishes. When the Turks order all Greeks deported in 1964, Fanis’s family is separated from his grandfather, whose scheduled visits to Athens prove to be no-shows year after year. Fanis becomes a crack chef, but is discouraged by his parents, and looks to the stars instead—astronomy, as it is pointed out, is just gastronomy with a little something missing. Fanis’s narrated flashbacks (he’s played as an adult by George Corraface) are filled with folksy wisdom about food and life, as well as endearing locals and over-sweetened metaphors, and Spice seems to be shot through the warm, soapy lens of so many portraits of a European life gone by. The romantic haze is occasionally cut, however, with a sharp look not at Mediterranean history, but personal history, and the ways that the people we love can let us down the most.