Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World, The (feature length)
Director: Weijun Chen
Producer: Lawrence Elman
Produced by: Drive Thru Pictures for BBC & DR
in association with SVT, NRK, YLE, VRT, VPRO & SBS
Duration: 4 x 30, 52 & 80 min.
Year of Production: 2007/2008
Original Title: The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World
Latest documentary project by the acclaimed, Oscar-shortlisted Chinese director Weijun Chen.
China is a country in a period of rapid transition. The enormity of the country means that it is increasingly flexing its muscle on the world stage, showing tremendous economic and political power and providing over a billion potential ‘consumers’ to the international market. It has a GDP of almost $2 trillion and is one of the world’s largest exporters. With increasing urbanisation and a loosening of state controls, the Chinese way of life is transforming itself minute by minute. And in a year’s time when the Olympics rolls into Beijing, the world will break open China’s doors and get a brief glimpse of life inside.
The West Lake, Xihulou, Restaurant in Changsha is the gargantuan and dramatic setting for this observational documentary. The restaurant is a miracle of management, organisation and efficiency. It recently catered a company banquet, serving 3,800 people simultaneously. This 5,000-seater temple to food is a symbol of the new China; a microcosm of the economic and social changes shaking up the country in the run up to the Olympics. It is bigger, bolder and better than the competition and it’s a business success story that is very Chinese in nature.
The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World is an observational, character-led documentary. Narrative strands will be found from the different characters that work or dine at the West Lake – the waiters, chefs and managers, the dynamic owner, the customers and the suppliers – each providing a different face of contemporary China. What aspirations and hopes do the West Lake’s staff have for their future? How do they spend their time when not working in the West Lake? And how are they adapting to business rather than the State providing their livelihood?
The film interweaves personal stories, shot in an intimate style, with probing camera work and a visual sense of humour. It flows with the rhythm of the restaurant and witnesses the mini-dramas that are played out on the West Lake’s stage every night – both around the tables and in the heat of the kitchen. In entering this vast culinary complex and encountering the dramas, personalities and ordinary lives that exist within it, The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World offers a unique perspective on the way China is heading.