Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

Poster for The Donut King (2020), dir. Alice Gu (courtesy Sunshine Sachs)

After fleeing the Khmer Rouge for the US with his family in 1975, Ted Ngoy got into the donut business. As he achieved success, he lent a helping hand to fellow Cambodian refugees, paving the way for them to essentially lead the donut business in Southern California. It’s the kind of immigrant success stories people typically love in the US, but business success did not prove fulfilling for Ngoy in the long run, and he entered a brutal, decades-long cycle of gambling addiction and myriad failures. The Donut King, Alice Gu’s new documentary on Ngoy, traces these multiple rises and falls.

Following the strange arc of Ngoy’s life, which also includes an abortive stint with Buddhism ascetism and several defeated political campaigns back in Cambodia, demonstrates how there’s never truly a simple rags-to-riches story. Lurking beneath the “American Dream” is the fundamental emptiness of its conception of success. The Donut King is hardly an anticapitalist polemic, but it doesn’t need to be, since this comes through clear enough in its story.

The Donut King opens in virtual theaters October 30 and on VOD November 20.

The Latest

An Anarchist Illustrator Looks to Radical Histories to Fight Fascism

Anarchist illustrator N.O. Bonzo produces decentralized media in a highly bureaucratic cultural landscape. Their illustrations, murals, and literature emerge in unexpected places, from the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the far ends of Reddit and Twitter, addressing relations of labor and identity in the workplace and on the streets. Growth and care are central themes…

Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He is studying in the masters program at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany. You can find his all his links and public profiles here.