Foodie, a new short film, depicts the challenges of moving to a new country through the eyes of a child.
There’s nothing quite like mum or dad’s cooking.
So imagine coming back one day to find that Dad has changed the menu in his bakery to appeal to the tastes of a new audience – and your beloved char siew pau (pork bun) is gone.
For a migrant child adjusting to life in another country, the loss of the familiar can be profound.
This poignance is reflected in Foodie, a short film by director Mia Maramara and producer Florence Lam that depicts the challenges of settling into a new life, through the eyes of six-year-old Flo.
Based on Lam’s personal experiences, Foodie highlights how food can be a strong link to culture but also a powerful force in bringing people together.
Lam shared her experience working on the short film with the Asia Media Centre.
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Foodie is based on your childhood experience. What was it like to be a migrant child in New Zealand?
Florence Lam: My family moved to Auckland from Hong Kong in 1998. My parents wanted to move away from Hong Kong as they felt my sister and I would have a better upbringing here.
My parents had a takeaway in Otara. It was an interesting childhood where we spent school holidays and afternoons after school in the takeaway. We would help take orders behind the counter and play spaceys or hang out with the neighbourhood kids when it was quiet. It was like playing shop but real life.
We had a few incidents of people robbing us or stealing from us so we started closing shop earlier, or staying behind our locked kitchen area after dark. I think having to consider these dangers growing up made my sister and I grow up a little quicker.
“Often when we think of people immigrating somewhere for hopes for a better future, we forget the realities of it and how much hard work actually goes on behind the scenes.”
How did the idea for the film come about?
I was living with Mia Maramara, the director for Foodie, after we graduated from film school in 2014. The story of my dad’s takeaway being robbed by a guy with a machete came up and I think it stuck with her. When the opportunity for Someday Stories came up, she asked if I would mind if she wrote a short film based on that, and it just went from there.
Our main goal for telling this story is really to show the hard and not-so-glamorous parts of moving away from the comfort of everything and everyone you know.
Often when we think of people immigrating somewhere for hopes for a better future, we forget the realities of it and how much hard work actually goes on behind the scenes.
My director Mia is a recent migrant herself. She moved to New Zealand from the Philippines in order to study at South Seas Film and TV School and her journey to stay in New Zealand has not been an easy one either.
The actors playing little Flo and Papa have a sweet chemistry. What was the casting process like?
We got very lucky with our cast. Initially, we reached out to a few talent agencies in search for Cantonese actors for Flo and Papa, however, we found that there were not very many Cantonese-speaking actors. We ended up lining up auditions with suggestions from friends and family. Jenesis Au Yeung, our little Flo, goes to church with one of Mia’s co-workers while Square Lee, our Papa, was suggested to us by Hweiling, our first assistant director. Square is a new father and it really helped with the chemistry between himself and Jenesis.
Little Flo grades her dad’s pork bun with a discerning eye. What’s your take on what makes a good char siew pau?
Char siew pau, I am actually really easy with – but when it comes to other Hong Kong goodies like egg waffles or egg tarts, that’s when my inner critic comes out. My dream is to find the perfect egg waffle shop in New Zealand.
Are you working on any new projects?
I’d eventually like to produce a feature film, stemming from Foodie, but I’m currently taking a bit of a break at the moment. Mia, however, is in full swing writing, directing and producing a TVNZ-funded pilot called The Year of Yes. It’s another Asian migrant story, albeit a very different one from mine, so it will be interesting to see how the two contrast.
Foodie is part of the Someday Story short film series produced by Connected Media with support from NZ On Air, The Body Shop, Te Māngai Pāho and the New Zealand Film Commission, in association with Stuff, Māori Television On Demand, The Wireless, and Coconet.tv.
– Asia Media Centre