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The Killing of a Chinese Cookie


4.0 out of 5 stars (2) IMDb 6.3/10

KILLING OF A CHINESE COOKIE examines the heated debate over the true origin of the fortune cookie, the mixing of easter and western cultures that produced it, and the cookie's rise from a simple pastry to a pop culture phenomenon.

Philip Chiang, Marc Edward Heuck
1 hour, 15 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Derek Shimoda
Starring Philip Chiang, Marc Edward Heuck
Supporting actors Sharon Leong, Eric Nakamura, Martin Yan
Studio Cherry Sky Films
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Okay, so I went to what felt like a miniature monthly comic-con being held at a Los Angeles animation studio called "Titmouse". This was my first time attending this small gathering and was surprised at how quickly I was able to meet new people. In fact, the first person I met was Derek Shimoda, the Director and Producer of this documentary called "The Killing of a Chinese Cookie."

Confession time. I used to collect those nifty little fortunes that come in Fortune Cookies. Why did I collect them? Well...(tugging at my collar) sometimes, the "fortunes" were...well, spot on. Othertimes, I wish that they were. And sometimes they were just plain cute. I'm a guy and I just used the word "cute", so that's saying something.

Needless to say, when I fortuitously meet the man behind a documentary on the origin of fortune cookies, I immediately go home and order my copy on Amazon. I had to know what was the real history of this small and embarrassing collection I've chaotically accumulated on the surface of my dresser.

The documentary is facinating and Derek sure as hell knows how to grab our attention: It opens with an interveiw of two employees of a State Lottery, both expressing their surprise when over 100+ people won a 25million jackpot lotto by playing the numbers they got on their fortune cookies. See? So right now I'm not feeling quite so embarrassed. I'm feeling stupid for never having played any of the numbers from my own fortunes.


This ear-grabbing opener is followed by the surprising Japanese origins of the Chinese cookie, and details how the World War 2 concentration camps for the Japanese contributed to the fortune cookie being successfully proliferated in the United States by Chinese eateries.
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Format: DVD
The Killing of a Chinese Cookie (Derek Shimoda, 2008)

The Killing of a Chinese Cookie, which is not to be confused with the 1976 John Cassavettes drama, is a documentary about the history of the fortune cookie, which was actually invented in New York City.

...or was it San Francisco?

You've obviously got the makings of a good documentary as soon as you ask that question--you've got two cities (neither of which, obviously, is in China) competing for the title of Inventor of the Fortune Cookie, and, as is often the case with docos of this stripe, any number of weird and wonderful personalities connected to the fortune cookie industry in each. And when the movie focuses on this aspect, and some of the related amusement (fortune cookies, apparently, were unknown in China until recently), it's well worth your time and a good deal of fun.

The problem is that Shimoda, normally a TV series researcher working on his first feature-length production as a director, didn't seem to think he could mine that vein for any more than he did, and so started throwing in... randomness. And these parts of the movie are where it kind of falls off the cliff; they simply didn't need to be there. If staying on topic would have left you with a documentary short, then, well, you should have given the world a documentary short. It would have been better than this.

Not to say the parts where it is actually about what it purports to be about are not worth watching. They are indeed, and you may well find them worth sitting through the rest of it. I did, albeit barely. ** ½
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