Director Richard Fung a resident of Toronto, who was born in Trinidad is always on the lookout for a taste of home and especially roti, his favourite comfort food. It's a very popular dish from the Caribbean but its roots go all the way back to India and Fung goes on a quest to trace these and find where roti started. This is not a culinary adventure film in the classic sense; I would call it a detective story at its heart.
The history of roti moved in step with Trinidad's. After emancipation, the island's former plantation slaves demanded wages that the owners considered much too high so they decided to import indentured servants from India. Like other instances of mass migration the immigrants brought some of their culture with them to Trinidad and then as they adapted that eventually changed the local culture. Food is the most obvious form of this and Fung shows us wonderful footage of the markets in Trinidad that are brimming with fruits and spices that all came from India with these waves of people. So the modern-day roti is a mix of these foods brought to Trinidad and the ingredients that were available at hand.
After seeing how the Indian immigrants affected Trinidad, he reaches back further. As he travels through India Fung finds that it may be much more difficult to definitely find one source. Food and culture alike are never static and it’s really hard to reach back 150 because the people and their food have changed.
Back in Toronto Fung talks with other immigrants about their story of how they brought something of home with them including some of the enterprising restaurateurs who opened the first roti shops in the GTA. Food by the end of the film is really held up as a metaphor for the collective identity of people and how the best of all of us come together to build a country and culture. This is a wonderful gem of a film that is a must-see for any so called “foodie” or anyone interested in anthropology in general.
Reel Asian Film Festival 2012
Directed by Richard Fung