Distances between cultures can be vast, seemingly insurmountable chasms. What cultures–specifically, what cuisines could be more different than French and Indian? Richard C. Morais brought this cultural clash to life in his book The Hundred-Foot Journey, which Oprah Winfrey then recommended in 2010 for her summer reading list. Just a couple of weeks ago, Dreamworks released the film version of this cultural clash. I highly recommend it to you.
You will delight in this film, not because it is great, but because it is . . . . good! Helen Mirren plays Madame Mallory, the somewhat embittered owner of a famous French restaurant where even the French president sometimes dines. Om Puri plays the head of an Indian family with a long history of restaurateurs and cooks, but a family which is currently homeless and looking for a place to open a restaurant in Europe. Because their brakes fail–“and brakes break for a reason”–they decide to stop in a small village in France and open their new restaurant–directly across the street–just one hundred steps away–from Madame Mallory’s renown restaurant.
The “war” between the two restaurants is fairly predictable, but entertaining. The reconciliation of their differences is also predictable, but carries the message of the film deeper than most viewers might expect.
The title The Hundred-Foot Journey began to take on new meaning to me when I thought about the variety of reasons these one hundred feet were crossed during the film other than just to reconcile differences between cuisines.
For instance, some characters walk the one hundred feet to paint ethnic slurs on the outer wall of the Indian family’s restaurant; others cross the 100 feet to the French side, thinking there to find a better future. And if I tell you more, I will tell you too much, but every time someone makes that 100 foot walk, something dramatic happens–so watch for it!
If all “wars” just could be solved so easily! I began to think of our trip to Jordan and Israel last spring and how I literally stood on the Arab side of the Jordan River where supposedly Jesus was baptized and looked at the Israeli side just one hundred feet away. The barbed wired, the armed soldiers, and the many warning signs, however, were all meant to remind me that one hundred feet can be a treacherously long distance.
How far apart are the one hundred feet that separate the black neighborhoods from the white neighborhoods today in Ferguson, Missouri?
How deadly is the one hundred foot path between the militant Muslims and the Christians in Kurdish Iraq?
How far is the journey from life to self-inflicted death for someone who has lost hope because of a terminal disease, or because of broken relationships?
How far is the walk from integrity to dishonesty? Or from dishonesty to integrity?
And lest we just think only other people have trouble with these hundred steps–how far is the walk from legalism to loving kindness, from condemning to reconciliation, or from self-righteousness to
humble submission? How many steps–and how hard to make that journey!
Even so, it can remind us that real integrity, sincere concern for others, honest communication, and a belief that we are part of a greater community than the one on my side of the road–these go far in answering the questions of why we should walk one hundred feet to the other side.
Didn’t Jesus tell us, long before this film, that if a man needed you to go with him one mile, then you should go two? I suspect he would say, if it will bring peace, don’t draw the line at one hundred feet.
Go as far as it takes.