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By Miriam Grinberg, Gettysburg Festival Visual Arts Intern, Gettysburg College Class of 2011

Juliette Binoche as Vianne Rocher

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about the 2000 film Chocolat is the whimsical theme music composed by Rachel Portman, whose score truly transports the audience to beautiful southern France. Portman’s score, as well as the film itself, were internationally acclaimed and together nominated for no less than five Academy Awards. It’s easy to understand why; from the picturesque scenery of rural France to a stellar cast, Chocolat is a visual delight.

Directed by Lasse Hallström and based on the 1999 novel by Joanne Harris, Chocolat centers around the story of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), an independent spirit and young mother who wanders France with secret chocolate recipes passed down to her by her mother of Mayan ancestry. She arrives with her young daughter Anouk in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a small and traditional village, and opens up her own chocolaterie . . . during Lent. Her boldness shocks the conservative villagers, including the devout Mayor Comte Paul de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), who begins a campaign against Vianne’s business. However, as Reynaud soon discovers, many of the villagers are willing to break Lent to try a taste of Vianne’s delectable confections – and even Reynaud himself finds that resistance is difficult.

Alfred Molina as Mayor Reynaud

Described as “a sinfully scrumptious bonbon” by critic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine, audiences may also have trouble resisting the charms of the film and its heroine, Vianne. Binoche truly brings out the character’s fighting spirit against accusations of heresy, her kindness to others outcasted by the villagers, and her passion for chocolate.  She is supported by other A-list actors, including: Alfred Molina, the mayor perfectly divided over his faith in God and his lust for sweets; Judi Dench, tragically funny as a cynical grandmother disallowed from seeing her grandson due to being a “bad influence”; and even Johnny Depp as an Irish gypsy with whom Vianne shares her feelings of ostracization.

Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche as Vianne and Roux

Portman’s score becomes, in itself, like another character in the story; it weaves through periods of intense drama and periods of light humor effortlessly, and it is difficult to imagine the film without her iconic music attached to every second of every scene. Hallström’s direction is also extremely effective in taking the audience both through sweeping overhead shots of the village as well as intimate close-ups without ever losing the central focus: the characters themselves.

At Chocolate Sinema on June 15, Festival attendees will get the chance to experience this delightful film followed by a decadent chocolate reception including petit fours, fondue, and even coffees and martinis infused with chocolate. If the movie doesn’t get your mouth watering for chocolate within the first 30 minutes, then seeing this display of delicacies will most definitely do it! Don’t miss out on this exclusive culinary event catered by the Festival’s Artistic Director for the Culinary Arts, former White House Chef Walter Scheib.

For more information on this event, feel free to contact the Festival at (717) 334-0853 or check our official website for details.

By Elizabeth Palmer, Gettysburg Festival PR/Marketing Intern

This year’s culinary event Chocolate Sinema brings something new to the Festival. For the first time in the Festival’s four-year history, a culinary event has been designed in conjunction with a classic film. Festival-goers will be able to savor the heartwarming story of Vianne Rocher in Chocolat while being tempted by the promise of a chocolate reception upon the film’s conclusion. Chocolate Sinema is the first culinary event to feature a menu designed entirely around my favorite part of a meal—dessert!

From Halloween to Valentine’s Day, ice cream to cookies, mousse to candy bars, I am crazy about chocolate. While I have always been a chocolate lover, I have never realized its health benefits. Since chocolate is made from plants, it contains many of the same nutrients as dark-colored vegetables, including flavonoids. These are compounds that can lower blood pressure and balance certain hormones in the body. Flavonoids may also act preventatively against cancer: they can help reduce cell damage that could potentially lead to tumor growth. Additionally, flavonoids act as antioxidants, which prevent heart disease and the effects of aging. Antioxidants are especially prevalent in dark chocolate, which contains almost eight times the antioxidants of strawberries!

Dark chocolate also contains many other health benefits. Studies have shown that enjoying one small dark chocolate bar a day can lower cholesterol by 10%. Not only does dark chocolate carry with it physical health benefits, but also emotional benefits. Consuming dark chocolate stimulates the body’s production of endorphins, which release feelings of pleasure and well-being. Dark chocolate is also full of serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. Eating chocolate will certainly elevate your mood and keep you happy!

Chocolate cheesecake

For those of you concerned about the fat content of chocolate, place your worries aside. Dark chocolate is composed of three types of fats: oleic acid, stearic acid and palmitic acid. While this seems like a lot, studies have shown that only one of these fats, palmitic acid, has negative effects on the body.  Stearic acid is a saturated fat with a neutral effect on cholesterol and oleic acid is an example of a healthy monosaturated fat. If fat content is still a concern, avoid chocolate containing nougat or caramel in favor of more natural ingredients such as orange peel or nuts. This will help cut back on excess sugar and fat.

Chocolate mousse

While chocolate has been given a bad reputation, many studies have determined its wide range of health benefits. My personal favorite is a study proving that chocolate may have a positive effect on math skills. In 2009, a study at Northumbria University in England concluded that people count backwards better after drinking hot chocolate containing 500mg of flavanols. This is because chocolate improves blood flow to the brain. Who knew chocolate could improve your mathematical abilities? It seems like there is a health benefit in dark chocolate for everyone—in case anyone needed an excuse to indulge in this decadent treat.

Chocolate Sinema will be a great opportunity to put these benefits into use. The reception has been designed to feature a bounty of chocolate-themed delicacies, including artisan chocolates, pastries, fondue, petit fours and even martinis and coffees infused with chocolate. Chocolate Sinema will leave you feeling satisfied—by the richness of Chocolat and by the chocolate confections themselves.