To be honest, when I first started watching this, I’d misunderstood the assignment: I thought this was a documentary. I thought the awesome, beautifully detailed images of food preparation were establishing shots for an investigative meditation on small-time gangsters operating out of a Mission district eatery. I realized I was mistaken when a guy’s tattoos started to morph, shift, and grow upon his flesh. Mission Chinese is not a documentary. It is a short film by Freemans Sporting Club & Sunday / Paper, and it is good.
Mission Chinese is a hard film to write about, it’s short, but very hard to outline without lessening it’s effectiveness. I don’t know a lot about the Mission in San Francisco. I’ll ask a question instead: does anyone else kind of assume that the events of this film are just the kinda stuff that always happens in back alley restaurants in ethno-centric neighborhoods? Behind every bakery deep in the cheap-dumpling-cosmos is a kitchen where gang wars are being negotiated, and supernatural powers are being practiced. Does everyone not make the assumption that every Little Italy, Moscowtown, Reykjavikburg, or Haiti Avenue is home to amateur shamans and organized crime organizers? Shit, am I just xenophobic?
Everyone hopes for something more in life, hopes to reach a plane of existence other than our own, hopes to find out that this isn’t it, that this is not the totality of our existence, that there is more to discover. That’s the significance of unworldly powers in fiction — it’s hopeful clawing at an existence that’ll likely never exist.
If “something more” is discovered, something incongruous to our current understanding of reality, it won’t be found by a religious leader, a government laboratory, a medicine man deep in the jungle, it will be found by some guy making minimum wage chopping scallions. Or at least that’s what I hope, because I’ve got about 15 more pounds of scallions to cut when I finish writing this.