Long-time SFist readers will remember that we were so inspired at last year's SFIAAFF by "Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents" that we gave it our prestigious Best Film We Saw On SFist award for 2005. The premise behind the Chinese Restaurants series is that the Canadian filmmaker, Cheuk Kwan, visits Chinese restaurants around the world and interviews the owners to find out how they ended up in their particular country. So Kwan has visited Chinese restaurants in Israel, one of the northernmost cities in Norway, India, and Cuba, among others. We are for not having this idea first.
In Latin Passions, Kwan stops by Peru, Brazil, and Argentina. Before we get started on the review, we should also just say that it was cruel of the SFIAAFF to screen this at 12:45 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon -- the audience audibly moaned in hunger as Kwan lovingly zoomed in on wokfuls of fried rice gleaming with egg, or the Peruvian-Chinese woman making Chinese sausage in her basement. Cruel, SFIAAFF, cruel!
Kwan's organizing principle seems to be that Chinese immigrants always have fascinating stories, ideally heard over a nice meal of steamed fish. He meets Peru's Martin Yan, watches the Brazilian World Cup, and practices his Argentinean tango, while listening to tales of swimming from the Cultural Revolution, Chinese workers building the trans-Andean railroad, and internationalism. The stories are always interesting, and the food always looks great.
Chinese Restaurants shows again at the Kabuki on Thursday at 7:15, but you'll need to wait for rush tickets as the showing is already sold out. Make sure you eat beforehand.
Picture of a Peruvian "Chifa" (from the Chinese "chi fan," meaning "eat") from Latin Passions.kicking ourselves