Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Off the Menu: Asian America (SAAFF 2016) - Documentary Review

Off the Menu: Asian America is an official selection of the 2016 Seattle Asian American Film Festival. Directed by Grace Lee (The Grace Lee Project, American Zombie), presents a journey through American food culture and how traditional Asian cuisine has both influenced and been influenced by different parts of the country.

The Review:
The first thing I have to say is that this film will make you very hungry so plan getting food immediately after watching. Aside from all the amazing culinary imagery, Grace Lee has crafted a very fun and informative field trip across the country sampling Asian foods and going behind the scenes to find out where it all comes from. She shows us everything from traditional meals prepared using time tested recipes and cutting edge menu items meant to inspire innovation while reaching back in time to bring out feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Some of the crazy concoctions she runs across like sushi covered in flaming hot Cheetos or chipotle tofu tamales really push the envelope of what Asian food is and they bring up a lot of questions about what is authentic and culturally inspired versus something that is meant for mass production while leaving any sort of authenticity behind. Ms. Lee does a fantastic job of sometimes poking fun at some of her subjects while never coming across as insulting or demeaning in any way and everything is presented in the spirit of togetherness and honoring cultures no matter what the end result might be. I really liked the idea of "Mana", which was brought up by a family in Hawaii as they discussed how food honors family, history, and culture, and embodies the spirit of all these things.

The Verdict:
Off the Menu: Asian America is a deliciously entertaining film filled with the finest foodie worthy images that will make you want to lick the screen. While I would recommend against actually doing that, I definitely recommend seeing this wonderful documentary as soon as you can.

DVD's are currently available through PBS: CLICK HERE


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