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Daily Helping for July 5th, 2021 – Dinner is Served – Hao Zheng

A photo still from the short film Dinner is Served. The photo is a close up of lead actor Qi Sun smiling at another character just out of frame.

I promised I’d be back with more films from the Disney Launchpad program. I mean, was there ever any doubt? This is Disney after all. Today’s helping is Dinner is Served by Hao Zheng, and I must admit to both loving this film and being baffled by it.

Dinner is Served tells the story of Xiaoyu, a Chinese student at an elite US boarding school, who decides to try out for the position of maître d’ in the school’s lavish dining room. On the night of the tryouts, let’s just say that things don’t go according to plan.

There’s a lot of really interesting things going on in this film, with issues of representation and the model minority stereotype all coming into play. And lead actor Qi Sun is so charming and earnest as Xiaoyu that I dare anyone to not fall in love with him. I was absolutely rooting for Xiaoyu from beginning to end, even as his goals shifted and changed as the story progressed. As I said above, I loved this film.

So why did it baffle me? Well, maybe this is just because I’ve never attended an elite US boarding school, but I had no idea that a world exists in which the position of maître d’ is so important and highly sought after. The idea that your social standing can be determined by how well you remember people’s names and what table they’re seated at. That school dining rooms can be places of elegance instead of uncomfortable bench chairs and food fights. Dinner is Served is once again a window into a world I know nothing about, and yes, it baffled me. But I also loved that it baffled me. Because now I know that this world exists and I want to know more. As I always say, that’s the incredible power of stories.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!