The pleasures of food, of the erotic, of family – form the very fabric of our emotional lives. And smell is an essential emotional trigger. There is more truth to call our sense of smell our sense of desire because it springs our passions. Smell moves us, subliminally and profoundly. It moves us to act and do things we are wholly unaware of. It enriches our lives, gives us with unspeakable joys. All along this feature-length documentary, central storylines take us into the world of smell. Many of them have the suspense, death-defying risk and insanity of a an ultimate quest. Others, are moments of pure poetry.
Filmed in five countries, this documentary takes us on an artistic journey through the lens of Kim Nguyen, nominee at the 2013 Oscars in the best foreign film category for War Witch. He integrates beauty, taste and poetry into the film, to the point where we can feel the inner sense of the Empire of Scents.
Kim Nguyen is a world-renowned screenwriter and director. He pursued his studies at Concordia University in Film Studies and taught afterwards the language of cinematography at the ICARI Institute and Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf.
Kim has also directed Le Marais (2002), Truffle (2008) et La Cité (2010). His last feature, War Witch aka Rebelle, won a nomination at the Oscars for best foreign film in 2013; a Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2012 Berlinale and a special mention from the Ecumenical Jury; a Best Actress Prize at Tribeca, 10 prizes at the Canadian Screen Awards and 8 Jutra Prizes.
The Empire of Scents is his first incursion into the world of documentary.
Lucie Tremblay started her career in the entertainment industry as a stage manager in performing arts for Cirque du Soleil and the Grand Orchestre du Splendide. She entered the documentary world in the 90s and then founded Lowik Media in 2008. She has produced many documentaries for which she won prizes from the Canadian Industry as well as international documentary festivals. With or without you has received the Golden Ribbon Award for Best Documentary in 2008 as well as a Gémeaux Prize for Best Documentary text; Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space, won the Best Documentary category at the Whistler Film Festival in 2009; The Hungry Wolf won two Gémeaux Prizes in 2013. She has many documentary projects on the way, including coproductions with France and Scotland.
Author of Taste Buds and Molecules, Créateur d'harmonies
François Chartier, "Créateur d'harmonies", is regarded internationally as one of the pioneering researchers in terms of recipe creation and wine and food harmonies. He has won, amongst others, the Best Sommelier in the World award in 1994 (Grand Prix Sopexa, Paris). He published the first results of his research in aromatic harmonies and sommelerie – discipline he created in 2004 – in his book Papilles et Molécules (Taste Buds and Molecules). In 2010, the book was awarded Best Innovative CookBook in the World, at the Gourmand World CookBook Awards in Paris.
Consultant for some of the greatest chefs in the world, he collaborated in creating many of the dishes on the 2009 and 2010 menus at elBulli Restaurant. François Chartier is also a wine merchant since 2013.
Journalist and Author of Season To Taste
Molly Birnbaum fell in love with cooking while in college, but her plans to become a chef were put to the test when she was hit by a car while jogging in the summer of 2005. As a result of the accident, she lost her sense of smell – and taste. Her first book "Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way" was published by Ecco/HarperCollins in 2011. She has worked as Managing Editor of Modern Farmer magazine and was the project editor of the New York Times best-selling Cook's Illustrated cookbook "The Science of Good Cooking." Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Fast Company and NPR. Today, she lives in Boston, MA, and works as the Managing Editor of Special Projects at America's Test Kitchen.
She can smell just about everything again.
Author of The Emperor of Scent and Scent Art Curator
Chandler Burr is the former New York Times scent critic and curator of the Department of Scent Art based in New York. He has authored two non-fiction books on scent, The Emperor of Scent and The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris & New York. In 2010, Burr founded the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. His first exhibition as the Department’s curator was The Art of Scent 1889-2012. In September 2014 he curated Hyper-Natural: Scent from Design to Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. His exhibition on contemporary scent art will run in 2016/17 at Somerset House in London.
He creates scent dinners, a combination of fine dining and master class in scent & perfume, and offers them all around the world.
Gongfu Tea Ceremony Master and descendant of poet and philosopher Zengzi (505BC), first disciple of Confucius
Yu Hui Tseng, " Master Tseng ", has been running for the last ten years in Paris “La Maison des Trois Thés” (The house of three teas) where 1000 varieties of tea and 500 vintages can be found. Coming from a Chinese dynasty: her most famous ancestor, Zengzi (born in 505 BC), was Confucius’ first disciple. Soon, she devoted herself to the study and tasting of tea, and is now amongst the world's best tea experts. She travels thousands of kilometers many times each year to find the finest tea plants in the world.
PHD Neuroscientist and Author of The Scent of Desire
Rachel Herz, Ph.D. is an expert on the psychological science of smell. She has been conducting research on the sense of smell since 1990, has published over 70 original research papers, received numerous awards and grants, co-authored several college textbooks, and is an adjunct professor at Brown University and part-time faculty at Boston College. Dr. Herz is also a professional consultant to various industries regarding smell, taste, food and flavor, and is frequently called upon as an expert witness in legal cases involving olfaction. She has written two acclaimed popular science books: The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell (2007) and That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion(2012), and is currently working on a third book.
Author, Musician and Astronaut
Col. Chris Hadfield has spent a lifetime living up to that responsibility. On July 20, 1969, when he quietly began his mission towards becoming an astronaut, all seemed unattainable. Canada had no astronaut program. Chris stuck to it. Enrolling in air cadets, he worked his way up through the RCAF, as an experimental test pilot and flying over 70 types of aircraft. In 1995, Chris Hadfield rode his first rocket. He flew again in 2001, installing Canadarm2. He served as Chief of Robotics, CapCom, and NASA’s operation in Russia, and even piloted a Russian Soyuz. The first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, a New York Times bestselling author,YouTube sensation and truly engaging speaker, Chris has worked hard to earn the right to wear his moustache.
Chef and Spice Composer
Olivier Roellinger is from Cancale, in Brittany and has been fascinated for as long as he remembers by the odours coming from the sea. Assaulted at 21 years-old, he fell into a coma. After his recovery, he started cooking “to bite into life”. At 27, he created the restaurant House of Bricourt which earned him 2 Michelin Stars. In 2006, it was the only restaurant in the world promoted to three. He started off a new life in 2008 and went back working at his one Michelin star restaurant, Le Coquillage to indulge in his true passion: spices. His organic and fair-trade mixtures are sold all around the world. He published the book Les parfums de l’enfance in 2010, and in 2012, Spices & Roellinger. A legendary spice composer, he is and will always be seeking the taste of the wind.
Molecular Biologist, Author of Floating Gold: A natural (and unnatural) History of Ambergris
While writing Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris, scientist and journalist Christopher Kemp spent several years researching ambergris, a component in history's most refined fragrances. Produced by sperm whales and expelled into the ocean where it floats for years, ambergris is one of the strangest and most valuable natural substances in the world. During his research, Kemp traveled across the world from New Zealand to Cape Cod, via remote islands in the southern seas. On the way, he entered a secretive world, interviewing the hunters, traders and perfumers who work with ambergris. Kemp is The Empire of Scents’ ambergris expert. He knows where it comes from, how it is made, its unusual properties, and why it is such a sought after ingredient in the perfume world.
Guido Lenssen is the CEO of Vivaeros Special Products and the creator of the flagship product-Vulva Original. He came up with this innovative idea because the erotic market catered to all the senses but that of smell. To seize this opportunity, he created Vulva Original to arouse olfactory intimacy, sexual attraction and pleasure, for both men and women. To achieve this, he hired scientists who after years of research, finally were able to replicate the genuine vaginal scent of a woman that all men liked best. Guido is always working on developing the Vulva product line and is also currently writing his first book called Esperanza Santiago, about his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Olfactory Therapist, Garches Hospital, France
Patty Canac has mastered the art of scent by working daily with perfumers who shared their knowledge. She has developped perfumes for many luxury brands including – BPI – Clarins - Decleor – Mugler - Bulgari – Chanel. She has been working since 2000 as an olfactory therapist at Garches Hospital in France, and since 2011, at La Salpetière in the Neurology Department. She is well aware the sense of smell is the least appreciated of all our senses and is committed to inform the greater public about its crucial role.
Professor at IFF School of Perfumery
Ron Winnegrad (New York, NY, USA) was a perfumer earlier in his career and today is the Director of the IFF Perfumery School. He teaches his students to construct fragrances from visual inspiration, synthesizing emotions in perfume. In his hands, those with olfactory faculty become successful perfumers, armed with the insight to understand the desires of consumers around the globe. From the young trainees eager to hone their palettes, to customers who visit him several times a week to exercise their noses – Ron helps others to see fragrance through his own multi-sensorial lens.