Independent Lens: The Donut King

(Rochester, NY) – An immigrant story unlike any other, Alice Gu’s The Donut King follows the twisty, unexpected journey of Cambodia refugee Ted Ngoy, who arrived in California in the 1970s and, through a mixture of diligence and luck, built a multi-million dollar donut empire up and down the west coast. A co-presentation by ITVS and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), The Donut King premieres on WXXI-TV Monday, May 24, 2021 at 10 p.m. 

In 1975, Ted Ngoy escaped the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, arriving in America via Camp Pendleton, California. Starting his new life in America as a church custodian, he parlayed opportunity and hard work into the purchase of his first donut shop, in Orange County, California – which quickly led to another donut shop, and another. Christy’s Donuts continued to expand and opened new locations, giving Ngoy the ability to lend a helping hand to his former countrymen and women. Over the next decade, Ngoy sponsored hundreds of visas for incoming Cambodian refugees offering them steady employment in his shops.

By the mid-1980s, Ngoy was living his version of the American Dream: owner of multiple homes, driving expensive cars, taking lavish vacations, and becoming an American citizen. But great rise often comes with a great fall, and Ngoy saw a reversal of fortune ultimately losing everything he built.

Through interviews with Ngoy and his family, and archival footage from Cambodia and California, The Donut King peels back the complex layers on a story about immigration, assimilation, prejudice, who gets access to the American Dream–and what happens when it is achieved. The award-winning film also explores how The Dream gets handed down and evolves from one generation to the next, taking a look at the current generation of Cambodian donut shop owners and the ways they have been inspired by and diverged from their parents and grandparent before them.

Photo: Ted Ngoy, The Donut King, at Donut shop.
Credit: Courtesy of Logan Industry

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