Projects: The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World
The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World (2008)
Drive Thru Pictures
BBC Four "Storyville", UK (7th July 2008)
Sundance Channel (2008)
SBS TV, AUSTRALIA (Dec 2008)
Traverse City Film Festival, USA (Nov 2010)
Iceland Reykjavik International Film Festival, ICELAND (2010)
Toronto International Film Festival, CANADA (2008) OFFICIAL SELECTION
Stranger Than Fiction, USA (Jan, 2010)
IDFA, NETHERLANDS (2009)
DOCVILLE International Documentary Film Festival (2009)
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (2009)
Kabul International Documentary & Short Film Festival (2009)
China is a country in a period of rapid transition. The country's enormity 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.
The race to be bigger, better, taller or the first to the finish line has usually been won by America, but China is increasingly the front-runner. It boasts the world's tallest buildings, the highest observation deck and the first fully sustainable city. For the everyday Chinese who work and play in the shadows of these technological and architectural wonders, how does it feel to be living this reality? The irony of a government that embraces capitalism and yet calls itself communist cannot be lost on its people. Who is flourishing and who is left behind in this new economic climate? And how does a country of 1.5 billion feed its people?
China has tantalised us by its very inaccessibility. Now we have been given a unique opportunity to have a peak under its covers, to witness this fascinating place and its people at such a special point in time. The only experience of China many people may have is of their local restaurant. Every major city has a Chinatown (and many smaller ones too); a place where locals head for a dim sum or a Peking duck fix, knowing little of the culture and lives of the people who cook and serve their food. Moreover, Chinese culture places great importance on food with every ritual and milestone marked by special dishes and elaborate banquets. What better way then to tell the story of new China than through a restaurant- not just any establishment, however, but quite possibly: 'the biggest Chinese restaurant in the world'…
800 staff, 5000 diners.
The West Lake (Xihulou) Restaurant in Changsha is the gargantuan and dramatic setting for this observational documentary. The Guinness Book of Records in 2004 named it the biggest restaurant in the world. Spread over 58,000 sq metres including lakes and gardens, huge banqueting halls and stages for acrobatics and dance, the West Lake is an opulent temple to Chinese food. The restaurant is not just impressive for its scale; its cuisine- a mixture of Imperial, Cantonese, Hunan and Manchurian- is highly renowned and has earned the West Lake 5-star status.
The West Lake is a miracle of management, organisation and efficiency. It recently catered a company banquet, serving 3800 people simultaneously. Founded in 2004 by Mrs Qin, the West Lake is a symbol of the new China. It is a microcosm of the economic and social changes shaking up the country's big cities. It is bigger, bolder and better than the competition and it's a business success story that is very much Chinese in nature. In entering this vast culinary complex, "The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World" will give a unique perspective on the way China is heading through the dramas, personalities and ordinary lives contained within.
The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World is an observational feature documentary about the life of the West Lake restaurant and what this reveals about the economic, social and cultural changes that are shaking up China. It recounts how the restaurant was created and what it takes to make it a success. Central to all this is the restaurant's unstoppable owner, Qin Linzi, a devout Buddhist, shrewd businesswoman and Communist Party member. The film reveals how her difficult childhood and unhappy first marriage were the driving force for her business success.
Through the lives of Qin and her family, the customers and the staff, the film builds a picture of who is thriving and who is struggling in this new economic climate. The film weaves together interviews with the owner and general manager, with the day-to-day running of the restaurant and the banquets and parties that are held there. Many of life's most important rites of passage take place under the West Lake's roof and it is through these celebrations - a wedding between a wealthy property owner and his beautiful bride, a 70th birthday party - that the film explores the lives of ordinary Chinese, their strong sense of family duty and the relationship between love and money in contemporary China.
Directed & Produced by LIZ MERMIN
Produced by LAWRENCE ELMAN
Edited by JAKE ROBERTS
Director of Photography: LYNDA HALL
Consultant: ALI WILLIS
Sound: RUSSELL EDWARDS, MATT SUTTON
Associate Producer: RACHAEL SWINDALE
Original Music: NICK FYFFE
Production Manager: EMILY MURFIN
Graphics: NICK FREW
Assistant Editor: GIGI HSIN
Production Assistants: JOSH BLOOM, JULIAN MOLINA
Additional Sound: TED ROTH, MICHAEL BOYLE
Post Production Facility: V.E.T.
Audio Mixer: SRDJAN KURPJEL
Online Editor/Grader: CATHAL O. DONOGHUE
Executive Producer: ROO ROGERS
Distribution: DR International Sales