I’ll admit I never gave much thought to the fact that here in Southern Californians we have a disproportionately high number of donut shops, almost all of them owned and operated by Cambodians. Nor did I realize that one man was responsible for this phenomenon—the same guy who introduced the now-ubiquitous pink cardboard box.
Alice Gu’s film introduces us to Ted Ngoy, a refugee who escaped from a hellish, war-torn country in 1975, came to the U.S. with no money or friends. He not only made a success of himself; he shared his good fortune with scores of relatives and friends. His secret: hard work in the extreme, a willingness to learn, and sheer determination. It’s an irresistible human-interest story… but it’s only the first chapter of The Donut King.
There is nothing pat or predictable about this fast-paced documentary, despite initial appearances. I don’t want to undermine the work of director Alice Gu or her writing partner Carol Martori. They defy expectations in a way no fictional saga would dare to do. For that reason it would be a crime for me to reveal too much.
The film flashes back to the horror of life in 1970s Cambodia, a tragic offshoot of the Vietnam war that eliminated thousands of lives. It also reminds us that several U.S. presidents welcomed a flood of refugees with open arms.
Ted Ngoy, his wife and family pick up the story and walk us through their unbelievable experience, flying to a strange new country where they didn’t speak our language and had to start life anew. We follow their path to success beyond their wildest dreams.
Paralleling this personal saga is the phenomenon of donuts, which have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity through reinvention (like the cro-nut) and ingenuity on the part of a new generation of entrepreneurs and bakers. For more information on the film, please go to https://www.donutkingmovie.com/