By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
The small things we often overlook may spark some of the most meaningful conversations— Do you know why your donut box is pink? Have you ever stopped to think about it?
Palisadian Alice Gu dives deep to explain why and more in her directorial debut, “The Donut King.”
Gu has worked on previous projects— some with a handful of her documentary heroes, including Rory Kennedy, Werner Herzog and Stacy Peralta. Along the way, she stumbled across a story she felt she had to tell.
Gu explained that it all began when her nanny politely declined a gourmet donut.
“She said, ‘No, no, no I only eat Cambodian donuts,’ my husband and I both wondered what Cambodian donuts were and a couple of days later… she brought some for us to try” Gu said to the Palisadian-Post. “We said, ‘Wow, these are great but I don’t understand what makes these Cambodian, this is a glazed donut.’
“She goes, ‘Yes, but it’s made by Cambodian people. They’re less sweet and they’re fresher and fluffier… Look it up.’”
And Gu did. After some research, she was riveted.
She learned of the many independent donut shops sprawled across California, their history and how they all lead back to one man: Ted Ngoy.
Ngoy fled Cambodia in 1975 and came to America as a refugee, escaping a brutal war. He came penny-less but with a drive— within only a few years, he built an unlikely empire of donut shops.
Gu was determined to track him down and tell his story.
“He was a little confused… so it took a bit of convincing,” Gu said. “He was like, ‘Really? They want to see a movie about me?’ I said, ‘Yes, if I’m that excited just reading articles about you, imagine if people can visually know where their donuts came from.’”
Ngoy explained that he learned the business from a local Winchell’s, and shortly after opened his own donut shop, Christy’s Donuts. He went on to sponsor over 100 Cambodian families as they arrived in Southern California— laying the groundwork for immigrants to open their own independent donut shops.
At one point he owned about 65 donut shops, earning the title the “Donut King.”
“He established a path for Cambodian refugees to actually have an opportunity in America,” a woman says at the start of the film.
Gu said as the daughter of immigrants herself, she is proud to share Ngoy’s story, it’s certainly a story many people in America can resonate with.
“My producer is Colombian, my editor is Italian-American, there is an artist who is Polish,” Gu said. “It certainly makes you reflect … All these people who left their homes to find a better life can really relate to this.
“That’s ultimately the most American story, coming here to achieve your dreams.”
Gu’s “The Donut King” was released in October of this year and has already won a number of awards from the Asian American International Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, Urbanworld Film Festival and more.
“The response to the story has been really, really great and we’re going for it, we’re doing an Oscar’s push so fingers crossed you’ll be seeing more of ‘The Donut King’ in the beginning months,” Gu said to the Post.
“The Donut King” can be rented on Itunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play. Viewers can also purchase a “virtual cinema ticket” and support local theaters at donutkingmovie.com/tickets.
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