Oakland filmmaker Tony Nguyen has been frequenting Catered To You for the past eight years, hooked on owner Teena Johnson’s fried fish sandwich.
He decided to make a short piece about Johnson and her Uptown, Oakland takeout window — an idea originally focused on what he thinks is the best fish sando in town (former Express food critic Luke Tsai was quite taken with it as well) but grew into a meditation on the rapidly changing neighborhood.
Fresh Frozen premiered at DocLands, a new documentary fest in San Rafael, and hit film festivals on the East Coast as well. Its local debut took place during Nguyen’s Oakland Shorties screening at the New Parkway Theater earlier this summer.
Now, you can watch the film on YouTube. The narrative is slightly outdated, as Nguyen stresses Uber’s recently abandoned plan to open an Oakland office as a cause for concern over Catered To You’s future. Still, Johnson’s lease is up next year, and displacement stories have become frighteningly common.
“That’s a big question mark,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen typically focuses on Asian-American stories — his past films include Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory, a movie about his mom that aired on PBS, and Enforcing the Silence, a documentary about a Vietnamese man murdered in San Francisco. Exploring Asian-American and particularly Vietnamese-American identity is still his primary interest, but Fresh Frozen certainly proves the potential for more Oakland-focused works in the future.
“I’m open to telling stories about anyone and everyone,” he said.