Flick Pick

The opening frames of Pressure Cooker, a documentary debuting at Starz FilmCenter on Friday, July 31, serve the same sort of dish as Hell’s Kitchen, Fox TV’s restaurant survival test. Wilma Stephenson, a culinary-arts teacher at Frankford High School in inner-city Philadelphia, is seen barking at her cooking students like a drill instructor armed with a spatula instead of a firearm. But as events unfold under the sympathetic gaze of co-directors Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker, Stephenson becomes a secondary character whose main function is to guide and support three compelling protagonists: a football player who’s as good at sautéeing as rushing the quarterback, an African immigrant saddled with an indifferent father, and a cheerleader whose go-getter facade obscures a history of depression. A scholarship competition frames the action, but the stakes are far higher than in the usual televised contest: The reward is a brighter future, not a pile of cash and some ego-stroking face time. As warm as it is rewarding, Pressure Cooker injects a reality-show premise with a heaping helping of real life.

The film heats up at 4:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. at Starz, in the Tivoli. Tickets are $6-$9.50. Learn about future screenings and more at 303-595-3456 or www.denverfilm.org.
July 31-Aug. 13, 2009

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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