Director of 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' shoots Maxwell Food Centre chicken rice war on iPhone 13 Pro

iPhones can be used to compose cinematic sequences convincingly.

Belmont Lay | April 25, 2022, 07:42 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

The latest iPhone 13 Pro out on the market is not just another smart phone.

In the right hands, it is a tool to record life, make movies, and tell stories.

And in the hands of David Gelb, the acclaimed director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it can conjure visual magic and add to modern cinema.

Maxwell's chicken rice war

In collaboration with Apple, Gelb shot a 5-minute documentary on the famous chicken rice war in Singapore's Maxwell Food Centre between incumbent Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and the defiant upstart Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Interviewees include the Tian Tian owners, Loi Mui Yin and her mother Foo Kui Lian, and the owner Wong Lian Tai of the breakaway Ah Tai stall.

Tight documentary with strong narrative

The documentary format makes quick work of the rivalry -- going from how it started to how it is going, to incorporating the hot takes of vested Singapore food experts interpreting and commenting on what the feud is about.

The most quotable bits are extracted and spliced together, with photos supplied by the subjects and many close up shots of chicken rice in all of its heart-clogging glory, brought to viewers by the creator of Chef's Table, Netflix’s first and longest-running original, Emmy nominated documentary series.

Tight story

Most compelling of all, though, is Gelb's cinematic language shining through.

A mundane food rivalry in a stuffy hawker centre is given narrative space to blossom and allows the viewer to take sides.

Are you for modernising the hawker trade? Or are you for nostalgia?

On the one hand is Tian Tian's second-generation owner Loi, who is taking over her founder-mother's business to bring it to the next level by opening more stalls, and using a central kitchen to do food prep and scaling the operations to meet ever-growing demand.

On other hand is Ah Tai's owner, Wong, who was the ex-chef of Tian Tian, who could not stand being told what to do and what not to do under Loi's new management, and taking matters into his own hands by opening his stall two doors down -- a one-man show -- from where his former employer operates.

Commenting on iPhone’s advanced camera system, Gelb said: “When I was first starting out, I wish I could have had a device like this."

"All that an aspiring filmmaker really needs to worry about is finding a great story to tell and then all the tools to tell that story are right in front of them. I imagine that it’ll inspire a generation.”

And perhaps, even a new generation of food wars.