October 26, 2020

SCREEN | Crowning 'The Donut King' of SoCal x VAFF 2020

"Donut is American breakfast."
Ted Bun Tek Ngoy Alice Gu | The Donut King | VAFF 2020
Vancouver Asian Film Festival
Taiwanese-American cinematographer and first-time director Alice Gu's quirky documentary about the legendary refugee turned unlikely doughnut entrepreneur Ted Ngoy (aka "Uncle Ted") brings a familiar feeling to its cultural subject matter. The Donut King explains the history behind the massive of wave of Cambodian immigrants opening doughnut shops in the late-'70s and their stranglehold on the market in Southern California to this day.

Ted's life is one of fate, romance, survival, and redemption. It's a rags-to-riches story of a poor refugee escaping Cambodia after the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge, arriving in the States in 1975, and building an unlikely multi-million-dollar empire making America's classic pastry before losing it all to gambling debts.

Once Ngoy established his own slew of independent doughnut shops including popularizing the iconic pink takeout box, he sponsored over a hundred immigrant families (many of his relatives) from his native Cambodia and helped them open their own doughnut businesses to later be passed on to their children while creating a community around the doughy treat.

Ted Ngoy Alice Gu | The Donut King | VAFF 2020
Greenwich Entertainment / Films We Like
How the documentary ties in so many elements of recent cultural history and business through the story of Cambodian refugees and the doughnut as a food item only further highlights the commonality of the American people. We are so tied together and related by our similar histories, circumstances, and even geography.

Ngoy and his family created a culture around doughnuts that advanced his people. Today, the children of these middle-class immigrants are educated, affluent Americans many taking over these doughnut shops while modernizing them and bringing them into twenty-first century trendiness.

Gu's inspiring film sheds light on the doughnut craze through the personal history of a charming 78-year-old man's improbable life story. By its use of archival footage, news clips, animated sequences, and family interviews, The Donut King weaves a compelling tale of highs and lows through a very contemporary storytelling context with reverence for the classic American dream.

The Donut King screens virtually at the 2020 Vancouver Asian Film Festival online as part of their Spotlight Series from November 1st to 9th. It is also available to stream through Cartems Donuts starting November 19th (in BC only). A Documentary Spotlight filmmakers talk and live Q&A with Gu will be streamed on November 5th

More | YVArcade / Chronicle / SCMP / Straight

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