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Homaro Cantu Documentary Filmmaker Chats About The Late Chef

"Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story" debuts on Sunday at SXSW

"Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story"
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Filmmaker Brett A. Schwartz followed the late-Homaro Cantu over several years, interviewing friends, family and the Moto Restaurant founder himself. The result of Schwartz's efforts became "Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story." The 98-minute documentary debuts on Sunday with its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. Fest attendees will have two more chances to watch the movie on Monday and on Thursday, March 17.

"I wanted to make sure it was authentic," Schwartz said. "Omar had been on camera a lot, interviewed a ton, and I felt like it was important that I really be there in a wide-variety of situations. I didn't want to catch him pandering to the camera."

Schwartz doesn't describe himself as a food enthusiast, having first heard of Cantu in 2005, and said Cantu's entrepreneurial spirit most interested him. The film covers Cantu from his homeless days living in a car to culinary school to arriving in Chicago and working at Charlie Trotter's to beyond. Viewers will hear an idyllic Cantu talking about helping cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy eat and enjoy their meals. They'll see Cantu charm audiences during his TED talk from 2011, as well as see his struggles including his dismissal at Trotter's and flooding problems at iNG.

"It's again taking us back to what's the cost of being a visionary, what motivates geniuses?" Schwartz said.

Schwartz compared Cantu to late-Apple founder Steve Jobs, saying Cantu was obsessed with changing the world. That's why Cantu opened up his sugar-free coffee shop, Berrista, wanting the public to rid their dependance on sugar. Cantu's friends, like ex-Moto chef Trevor Rose-Hamblin and Curtis Duffy (Grace), make appearances. Schwartz said he didn't want to canonize or discredit Cantu. He only wanted reflect Cantu's character as accurate as possible, but at the same time be respectful to the loved ones left behind: "I wanted to hold up a kind of mirror to him, and I think it's a really hard thing to do, frankly, when somebody's passed away, particularly the way that he did."

Cantu died by suicide in April 2015. The film mentions the death and the lawsuit Cantu faced, talking to friends on how much Moto meant to the chef.

"I wanted viewers to have a punch in the gut, to feel what the community felt," Schwartz said. "But I also wanted there to be a tinge of a hopeful future in terms of what happens next with Omar's ideas."