Celebrity chef Luke Nguyen returns to his roots with the Great Guns director in cinematic film ‘The Pursuit of Beauty’
Great Guns’ Frankie Caradonna
has written and directed the stunning new branded documentary for San Marzano Wines. Starring award-winning Australian-Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen, the film follows his journey through Vietnam as he returns to his roots, exploring the country’s cultural and culinary heritage.
Frankie was given complete freedom over the project, working closely with Angelo Cotugno and Maria Cavallo at San Marzano to deliver the final script. Inspired by Vietnam’s beautiful locales, Frankie chose to create a visual journey through the country, presenting a tactile exploration of the relationship between wine and food. To establish this underlying theme, the Great Guns director asked Luke Nguyen to drink San Marzano’s wine across several days, exploring flavours that evoked memories relating to Vietnam and his life and background. Frankie then asked Luke to create a dish based off his response so he could craft a unique and original story about people, food, and wine.
Speaking of his relationship with Luke, Frankie notes: “My connection with Luke was immediate and it became stronger after we found out we were born on the same day and year. I made him connect with the wine through his eyes, nose, body, and soul and then I interpreted and followed the echo of his memories, dreams, and narrative. Luke has a wonderful story and he is a great human being, it was an honour and a pleasure for me to travel with him, discovering where the products he uses come from.”
Thanks to the team’s connections, they were granted access to a range of stunning locations, including local communities and Buddhist temples. These areas, explored by Luke in the film, are the home of various products he uses in his cooking, whether this is the rice fields of Sapa or lakes where traditional fishing techniques are used. The team shot for eight days in Vietnam, also visiting Luke’s parents’ neighbourhood in Saigon and the valleys of Halong Bay.
Frankie worked closely with cinematographer Mike Allen and music and sound designer James O’Connell to create the film’s stunning cinematic style. He visited the San Marzano wine cellars in Apulia and met their wine producers, mesmerised by the family owned and run company. Frankie injected the same passion into the film, crafting a beautiful response to the story of Luke and San Marzano. He also worked to establish a clear distinction between the fast-paced kitchen scenes and the atmospheric Vietnam footage.
Speaking of this process, Frankie adds: “The general idea was to establish a powerful and dreamy relationship between the hero and the wine. I work as a sculptor: I observe the rough stone and then slowly start to sculpt it to find its natural hidden shape. That’s part of my research. There is a scene where we should the creation of a dish and I wanted it to be extremely different from the scenes in the kitchen where I wanted a different kind of energy; these scenes needed a strong connection with the visuals too. If you watch the film carefully, you’ll notice that it’s all organically connected despite being so different.”
The team also battled challenging weather conditions for the shoot, combating the unpredictable monsoon season and time constraints by scouting locations hours before filming each day. Combining instinct and experience with this organisation, Frankie managed to capture all the stunning and unforgettable visuals seen in the film.
The final film was presented at international food and wine festival Ego Festival in Taranto, Italy and released on San Marzano Wine’s web channels.