I admit, I’ve never given much thought to the fact that we have a disproportionate number of donut shops here in Southern California, almost all of which are owned and operated by Cambodians. I also didn’t know that a man was responsible for this phenomenon – the same man who introduced the now ubiquitous pink cardboard box.
Alice Gu’s film introduces us to Ted Ngoy, a refugee who fled a hellish, war-torn country in 1975 and came to the United States with no money or friends. He not only made a success of himself; He shared his happiness with dozens of relatives and friends. His secret: hard work in extreme cases, willingness to learn and determination. It’s a compelling story of human interest … but it’s only the first chapter of The donut king.
Despite the early appearances, there is nothing gossipy or predictable about this fast-paced documentary. I don’t want to undermine the work of director Alice Gu or her writing partner Carol Martori. They defy expectations in a way that no fictional saga would dare. Because of this, it would be a crime for me to reveal too much.
The film recalls the horrors of life in Cambodia in the 1970s, a tragic offshoot of the Vietnam War that claimed thousands of lives. It also reminds us that several US presidents welcomed a flood of refugees with open arms.
Ted Ngoy, his wife and family take up the story and lead us through their incredible experience. They are flying to a strange new country where they do not speak our language and have to start a new life. We follow their path to success beyond their wildest dreams.
Parallel to this personal saga, there is the phenomenon of the donuts, which has regained popularity through reinvention (like the cro-nut) and ingenuity of a new generation of entrepreneurs and bakers. For more information on the film, see https://www.donutkingmovie.com/