Love, Hummus, and Cinema

I don’t remember the first time I fell in love with hummus, but the first time I realised it was something I could make myself was when I watched my friend Dani make. Chickpeas, tahini, salt, some lemon juice, and — voila!

There was a time in my life when I made hummus two to three times a week. I’ve made plain hummus, hummus with roasted garlic, and spicy hummus with some kick in it. I’ve made beetroot hummus and capsicum hummus and avocado hummus. And every time I go to a restaurant that serves it, I order a serving, and then place it somewhere on a mental scale that I carry with me.

I’ve always loved films, but the first time I realised that making films was something that was accessible to me was when I watched Joe Swanberg’s Kissing on the Mouth.

It was raw and rough and personal, and at the time, I’d never seen anything like it. It felt like all I needed to make films was a camera and some friends. I already had friends, and that same year, I picked up a camera.

And now whenever I tell someone that I’m a filmmaker, one of the questions they eventually ask is —

So what’s your favourite film?

I’m on a first date at a Nandos in a mall somewhere in the city. It’s unusually empty for a Nandos, and after we place our orders, my date — sitting across from me — asks: So what’s your favourite film?

Normally, what I would do in a situation like that is to look at her, do a warm-read — which basically just means trying to remember her profile and what we talked about previously — and give her an answer that I think would impress her.

But I don’t do that.

I realise that I cannot answer her question because a couple of days earlier, I had some hummus that was unlike any I’ve had before.

Leen’s in TTDI makes the smokiest hummus I’ve ever had. After the first bite, I tried to figure out where it would fall on the mental hummus continuum I carry with me. But as much as I tried, I could not place it.

Is it ahead of Bedouin’s? Al Amar’s? Lnop’s? Istanbul’s?


But also no.

Different situations call for different kinds of hummus.

And then it occurred to me that perhaps the scale in my head is less like a number line and more like a colour wheel.

“I don’t think of films strictly on a linear scale anymore,” I tell my date.

Would it make sense to say that I love Speed Racer more than I love Before Sunset? Or Wajib more than Chungking Express?

These are all films I’ve watched more times than I care to count. Like old friends, being around them comes with a sense of comfort and companionship. There are scenes and sequences in all these films that I can practically lip-sync to. And all of them have shaped my life in one way or the other.

But they’re also not interchangeable. Speed Racer is not Before Sunset just like Wajib is not Chungking Express. So how can I place them on the same continuum? How can I rate them all on the same scale?

In one of the recent episodes of his podcast, Tyler Cowen said that “context is that which is rare”. The more context you have about something, the fewer people would have the same. Which is to say that the deeper you go, the lonelier it gets.

This also means that the more you love something — the more you know it — the harder it is to compare that to other things. Because the more you love, the more unique your object of affection becomes. And also — of course — the harder it is to explain your love to others.

So — no — I don’t have a favourite film for the same reason I don’t have a favourite hummus: I love too much.

Although if you were to go on my Letterboxd right now, there will be 4 films at the top of my profile that are supposedly my favourites.

And of course I’ve rated all those films on the same 5-star scale.

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