Peru, Brazil, Argentina
Chinese Restaurants: Latin Passions tells the story of the Chinese diaspora through its most recognizable and enduring icon – the family-run Chinese restaurant. Filmmaker Cheuk Kwan visits Latin American cities of Lima, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires encountering restaurant owners enthralled in their passion for cooking, soccer and tango.
Lima-born Luis is a medical doctor who took over a rundown restaurant in the city’s Chinatown. The charming and outgoing doctor hosts Chinese cooking shows on TV and promotes the marriage of his ancestors’ holistic medicine and health-conscious cuisine.
Lee and his future wife swam from China to Macau, and freedom, during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s. On the eve of the 2002 World Cup final, their son, Luis, recounts his passion for football and what it means to grow up Chinese-Brazilian.
77-year old Chiang came to Buenos Aires in the 1960’s and became the “Spring Roll King” of Argentina. While his family lives elsewhere in this planet, he lives his remaining years amidst the melancholy music of the seductive tango.
Together, these stories illustrate the wider story of Chinese migration, settlement and integration and celebrate the resilience and complexity of the Chinese diaspora. They highlight the fluidity and highly personal nature of identity, and the human impulse to find passions in life.
No matter where we live, it is human nature to pursue our passions. Like communities everywhere in the world, the Chinese in Latin America have their own pasionnes latinas
In Lima, I find a medical doctor who is so passionate about Chinese cuisine that he renovated and operate one of the original Chinese restaurants in the city’s 150-year oldbarrio chino. In Sao Paulo, a Chinese immigrant couple escaped from China in the 1960’s and found a new life in a new continent. Their son is passionate about futebol and celebrates enthusiastically Brazil’s fifth World Cup victory with the whole country. Finally, a lonely internationalist chooses to spend the twilight years of his life amidst the melancholy and seductive music of tango in Buenos Aires, the city he has lived for the past forty years.
Whenever I travel, I would eat at Chinese restaurants and listen to their owners’ fascinating life stories. For twenty-five years, I have always wanted to make a film about the Chinese diaspora through the life and times of its restaurant owners.
The result is Chinese Restaurants.
What I find fascinating about these restaurant owners is that they have always managed to augment their passion for life with earthly passions of food, sports and music. It is always important to survive and prosper, but it is equally important that we follow our hearts. It is in that very individual choice that makes a difference whether we are simply surviving or we go out and enjoy a full life in a place we call home.