Kitchen Confidential

Gina Kim's 'Final Recipe,' a pioneering co-production between South Korea and China, is about to be served up to global audiences

By Noela Hueso

A new film by Gina Kim, assistant professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, hit the big screen in China last week, opening on Friday, Aug. 26 at 3,200 film venues — one out of every 10 in that country. The co-produced film is the first Korean-directed feature to be granted a wide release in China, following a 2015 free trade agreement between South Korea and China. Final Recipe is the most recent of Kim's five feature-length films, which have garnered critical acclaim internationally.

Kim — a writer, director and producer — embarked on Final Recipe with an ambitious vision: to broaden the horizon of an international co-production, using an English-language script and transnational cast to emphasize the film's global appeal.

The story of a young man who travels from Singapore to Shanghai, determined to save his family's restaurant by entering a prestigious cooking competition, Final Recipe was the opening film in the Culinary Cinema sections of the Berlin and San Sebastian international film festivals, and the opening film for the Hawaii International Film Festival and the USA Film Festival. 

The film's actors, including leads Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Henry Lau (from pop group Super Junior M) were drawn from all parts of Asia including China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, as were the film's below-the-line crew. Although Final Recipe is aimed at a pan-Asian market, the film was shot in English, adding to its universal appeal. Filming took place in Shanghai, Seoul and Bangkok.

"I wanted the locations and cultural details to be authentic," says Kim, who teaches production in UCLA TFT's Department of Film, Television and Digital Media. "But at the level of language, we had to have a plausible story despite the fact that the pan-Asian world encompasses a multitude of languages and dialects. In the end, we developed the story around the fact that when Asians from different cultures meet and communicate, the lingua franca is English."

Final Recipe will open next in German-language territories around the world, as well as in Italy, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the former Yugoslavia, Latin America, the Middle East and the United States.

"The film marks an evolution in my creative work as director," Kim says, adding that the production is "a new way of thinking about the making and distribution of transnational cinema in my role as a writer and producer."

Posted: August 30, 2016