Documentary: DINER EN BLANC, The World's Largest Secret Dinner Party
"DINER EN BLANC, The World's Largest Secret Dinner Party" - The Documentary
PARIS, 1998: 200 people gathered for an impromptu feast. How did the event remain secret while becoming an annual communion of 13,000 friends?
The story of Dîner en Blanc is the subject of a documentary. “Dîner en Blanc: The World's Largest Dinner Party” reveals more about the evolution of this mesmerizing convergence of food, fashion and friendship. The film was produced and directed by Jennifer Ash Rudick with footage by iconic filmmaker Al Maysles (“Gimme Shelter,” and “Grey Gardens”).
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While trekking across Paris's Pont Des Arts toward Notre Dame, a friend explained in rapid-fire French that recently her sister had dinner on the bridge with 2000 friends-of-friends. They had arrived at 9:30 p.m. and in a mere fifteen minutes positioned tables in orderly rows, unpacked miles of white linens, ornate crystal for wine, sterling candelabras, and epicurean delicacies including lobster, foie gras, caviar, and cheeses. Police arrived with pepper spray but they resisted, the police backed down and they stayed on till midnight, watching the moon rise over the Seine. Their departure was as orderly and instantaneous as their arrival. They did this every year. Always at a new location, kept secret by the organizer, and revealed to the thousands of participants only moments before they were meant to arrive.
The entire evening was devoid of politics or commercial enterprise and organized at no expense to the participants. Who organized it, though, was anyone's guess. That person preferred to remain anonymous to preserve equability among the group and in order not to be bombarded with request to attend.
Fast forward 8 years and a story ran about a similar dinner in New York. Realizing it was the same concept as the Paris dinner, I checked in with my friend who said the Paris dinner had grown to an unimaginable communion of 13,000 friends-of-friends - the world’s largest, most elegant dinner party. Still, no one knew who was in charge. I had to know more about a person who annually organized a dinner for 13,000 people for the fun of it. I can barely handle six in my apt. and we order in!
For nine months, I worked my way through the Paris dinner's invitation list or the "friendly pyramid" as they call it. Finally, someone agreed to ask the dinner's originator if they would be open to revealing their identity. We agreed to meet me in Paris for lunch to discuss the documentary. Alas, when I arrived, they had sent their neighbor in their place.
The neighbor asked me why I wanted to make a film about their "simple gathering" and I explained I knew of no other noncommercial, non-policitcal events on this scale. It was heartening, inspiring and cinematic. What my story line would be? I suggested we would start shooting and take it from there, which, as it turns out, is how this dinner grew from one year to the next. We started filming on a handshake with the organizers giving us complete access and creative control.
Award winning Paris filmmaker, Hugues Hariche (FLOW) gathered a crew. We filmed the planning meetings, followed the organizers as they measured areas surrounding various monuments to see if spots could accommodate the flow of thousands of people without disturbing the public. We followed various groups of families and friends as they shopped, cooked and traveled to the dinner. Emmy and Oscar nominated documentarian Steve Cantor advised as producer and iconic filmmaker Al Maysles shot the NY footage. It is a wonderful team and we hope you enjoy getting to know the people who entertain 13,000 "just for the fun of it" as much as we did.