The Search for General Tso

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The Search for General Tso
Directed by Ian Cheney
Produced by
Music by
  • Ben Fries
  • Simon Beins
Cinematography
  • Ian Cheney
  • Taylor Gentry
Edited by Frederick Shanahan
Production
company
Wicked Delicate Films
Distributed by Sundance Selects
Release date
Running time
73 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Search for General Tso is a documentary film that premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. It was directed by Ian Cheney and produced by Amanda Murray and Jennifer 8. Lee.[1] Sundance Selects acquired it in December 2014, and was released January 2, 2015, in theaters and on demand.[2]

Synopsis[edit]

The film's opening explores theories about General Tso, before moving to China,[3] where few recognize the eponymous dish.[4] The film then traces Tso's real-life history in the Qing Dynasty as well as the history of Chinese immigration to the United States.[1] Interviewed are a number of notable figures in Chinese-American cuisine, such as Cecilia Chiang of The Mandarin, a world record-holder for restaurant menus,[5] and Chef Peng Chang-kuei, who invented the dish in Taiwan.[3]

Development[edit]

Around 2004, Cheney and his best friend were driving across America when they stopped at a Chinese restaurant "with red booths and neon signs" and ordered General Tso's chicken. The experience prompted them to investigate the history of Chinese food in America.[6]

In 2008, Lee wrote a book about the history of Chinese food in the United States and around the world, titled The Fortune Cookie Chronicles,[7] documenting the process on her blog. She reported the unlikely, but true, story of how a batch of fortune cookies created 110 Powerball lottery winners.[8] To the surprise of many non-Chinese readers, she reported that fortune cookies are found in many countries but not China and that fortune cookies may have originated in Japan.[9][10] Warner Books editor Jonathan Karp struck a deal with Lee to write a book about "how Chinese food is more all-American than apple pie".[11] She appeared on The Colbert Report to promote the book.[12] The book was #26 on The New York Times Best Seller list.[13]

The book research is the basis of Lee's documentary collaboration with Cheney. In addition to premiering at Tribeca, the film played at the Seattle International Film Festival,[14] AFI Docs,[15] and the Independent Film Festival of Boston.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Film reviews were generally positive, with critics finding the premise amusing and the conclusion thought-provoking. Scott Foundas of Variety called it "a finger-lickin' good foodie docu" and John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter predicted, "Festival auds should eat it up."[1][5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c DeFore, John. "'The Search for General Tso': SIFF Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  2. ^ The Deadline Team. "Sundance Selects Nabs 'General Tso'; Warner Bros Shifts 'Pan' Release, Titles Horror Pic, More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Stern, Marlow. "'The Search for General Tso': The Origins of America's Favorite Chinese Dish, General Tso's Chicken". The Daily Beast. 
  4. ^ DeJesus, Erin. "Watch a Trailer for The Search for General Tso". Eater. 
  5. ^ a b Foundas, Scott. "Tribeca Film Review: 'The Search for General Tso'". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  6. ^ Marsh, Lisa. "The Truth About Your Chinese Food: The Search For General Tso Premieres At The Tribeca Film Festival". Epicurious. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  7. ^ Lee, Jennifer 8. (2008). The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. New York: Twelve Books. ISBN 0-446-69897-0. OCLC 225870250. 
  8. ^ Jennifer 8. Lee (May 11, 2005). "Who Needs Giacomo? Bet on the Fortune Cookie". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Jennifer 8. Lee (January 16, 2008). "Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ 8. Lee, Jennifer (January 16, 2008). "Fortune Cookies are really from Japan". The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Jennifer 8. Lee Attracts Americans with Chinese Food" Archived 2008-10-17 at the Wayback Machine., October 13, 2008. Source: Xinhua/Translated by womenofchina.cn
  12. ^ "Jennifer 8. Lee on The Colbert Report on Tuesday, March 4th, 2008"
  13. ^ "Best Sellers, Hardcover Nonfiction, March 30, 2008"
  14. ^ "Seattle International Film Festival". siff.net. 
  15. ^ "AFI Docs - The Search for General Tso". afi.com. 
  16. ^ "Independent Film Festival of Boston". iffboston.com. 

External links[edit]