Truly independent and innovative documentary DVD company Bullfrog Films picks a subject near and dear to the heart of millions regarding the release of "The Search for General Tso." This non-fiction movie provides an entertaining overview of the history of Chinese food in America in the larger context of the equally delightful study of the titular sweet and tangy dish that is the fave of so many people.
The following YouTube clip of the trailer for the film is so delightful by itself that you almost definitely will not say "Tso what" in response to this introduction to the production.
This behind-the-scenes look (complete with a tour of a fortune cookie factory) at the Chinese restaurant industry begins with a photo shoot that shows the origin of the pictures of food on the wall menus of many Chinese places. This alone should create a craving for the titular entree.
We soon meet the Guinness World Book record holder for the largest collection of Chinese food menus; this collection is from more countries than there are in the U.N. This aspect of this segment provides the element of "entertainment" that is part of any good documentary; the educational aspect includes learning of a method for determining the best meals in a Chinese restaurant.
Filmmaker Ian Cheney also takes us to the Hunan Province in China to learn more about the real-life general for whom the dish is named. The response of the locals on learning about the American concept of Chinese food is hilarious.
The history of Chinese food restaurants in America is almost as amusing; we learn about origins that include chop suey joints. A fascinating aspect of this is the huge disparity between the Chinese population in our country and the proliferation of restaurants that serve food from their nation, Other perspective comes via comparing the popularity of that cuisine to that of pizza.
The largest context of all this is that Cheney and Bullfrog focus on a subject that is of interest to the general public but receives little thought. The payoff comes when we realize our ignorance regarding a fascinating topic. This is comparable to learning the process for manufacturing shoe laces is worthy of a big-budget film.
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