OFF THE MENU: ASIAN AMERICA
Directed by Grace Lee
Official Selection, 2015 CAAMFest
Official Selection, 2015 Milwaukee Film Festival
Award-winning director Grace Lee joins the legions of Asian Americans taking pictures of food. But with her latest documentary OFF THE MENU, Lee zooms out to frame not just the dishes but the people: proud grandchildren of immigrants, community providers, and chefs. An entrepreneur selling sushi in Texas. A temple practicing its faith in Wisconsin. Ecological activists in Hawaii. And yes, Asian Americans taking pictures of their meals. From the subjects’ relationships with food, Lee finds stories of identity confusion, cultural preservation, and geographical adaptation that speak directly to the ironies of what is Asian America to begin with.
In her most tightly-made documentary to date, Grace Lee cooks up a simple multi-course meal that strives for nothing less than a sociology of food. As with her breakthrough The Grace Lee Project (SDAFF ’05), Lee has a way of mapping out the diversity of Asian America – and approaches to Asian America – through a single thread-line that despite its modesty reveals a “spirit” that connects an entire pan-ethnicity. In OFF THE MENU, that spirit goes well beyond the clichés of fusion food and toward something felt with the heart as much as with the palate: a search for a culinary home that is comforting, communal, and soulful. –Brian Hu