Sunday, January 17, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Donut King (2020) - A Kino Lorber DVD Review

THE DONUT KING (2020) is an interesting documentary about Ted Ngoy, who arrived in Orange County, California, as a Cambodian refugee in 1975.

Within six months Ngoy had been trained to run a Winchell's Donut shop, which was the foundation of his future success in the donut industry.

Ngoy built a donut shop empire, and though his personal story was later filled with addiction and the ensuing collapse of his business success, the hard work of Ted and his family paved the way for many other Cambodians and their own American success stories.

This 90-minute film is quite well done, placing Ngoy's story inside the larger history of Cambodian resettlement to Southern California, told with good editing and visuals, including animated scenes -- and, of course, plenty of footage of beautiful donuts!

A detail I particularly enjoyed, given my own love for the genre, is that Ngoy was drawn to choose the USA as his family's new home due to his love for Westerns.

THE DONUT KING is one of a number of enjoyable food-related documentaries released by Kino Lorber in the last few years, following THE GODDESSES OF FOOD (2016), CHEF FLYNN (2018), and DIANA KENNEDY: NOTHING FANCY (2019).

I've been looking forward to seeing it since I read Raquel Stecher's review last spring.  The movie was of particular interest to me because it's also a history of my area, where Asian-owned donut shops are ubiquitous, to the extent that both Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme have struggled to establish footholds here.  

Another interesting aspect: Those pink boxes we all associate with donuts? Those were originally a Ted Ngoy innovation, initially because the color was cheaper.  Now, of course, anyone who sees a pink box immediately starts craving the goodies guaranteed to be found inside.

There was one statement early on that I took exception to, when someone said that not many people here knew Asians before the arrival of the Cambodian refugees and that the donut shops were a way for them to find acceptance.  Anyone who knows California history knows that's just silly.  

Perhaps the word "Cambodian" should have been used instead of "Asian."  There were many people of Chinese and Japanese descent, in particular, in California before the mid '70s; some of them were my friends. After the mid '70s, Asian demographics in Orange County shifted thanks to the influx of Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees.

THE DONUT KING is a documentary worth catching.  It was directed and filmed by Alice Gu, written by Gu and Carol Martori.

The DVD includes half a dozen trailers for additional documentaries available from Kino Lorber.

A trailer for THE DONUT KING is available on YouTube.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this DVD.

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