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REPUBLIC OF FOOD Leaves Viewers with a Full-course Meal of Cheeky Comedy, Dystopian Drama and a Dash of Action3 min read

21 June 2019 3 min read


REPUBLIC OF FOOD Leaves Viewers with a Full-course Meal of Cheeky Comedy, Dystopian Drama and a Dash of Action3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Director: Kelvin Tong
Cast: Adrian Pang, Yeo Yann Yann, KF Seetoh, Oon Shu An, Shane Mardjuki, Bobby Tonelli, Jeffrey Xu, Patricia Mok
Language: English, Chinese, Malay with English subtitles
Runtime: 21 minutes per episode

A food-borne virus has caused food to be banned and replaced with the synthetic, flavourless PHood. A small band of dissatisfied and deliriously hungry food lovers, the Underground Food Club, defy authorities by eating contraband food at underground feasts.

Review by Nadia Alang

If there’s one thing that we can all share a love for, it’s food. Republic of Food makes references to food shows – you know the kind where a host brings you around to must-try cafès and orders a bunch of dishes that they take a bite from and tell you what’s good about it – but frames them in a more relatable way.

Initially released as a feature-film, Republic of Food was edited into a web series with 6 bite-sized chapters which, apart from the introduction, are each centred around one dish.

The series reminds us that there’s more to food than what meets the eye (and tongue). As recipes are passed down from generation to generation, they might change but there is a sense of time preserved in every dish.

The story is set in 2025 and there exists a group of people, the Underground Food Club, determined to go against the global food ban. Although driven by hunger, it becomes apparent through the protagonist that food brings more than just pleasure.

The protagonist, Chia Kau Peng (Adrian Pang) is an entertainment TV host and, having worked on a food show prior to the global food ban, he is invited to join the food club and document the food that they secretly eat.

Doing away with intimidating images of high-class dining experiences and master-chefs, the dishes that the show features are simple and, more important, metaphorical of time and tradition. Although fried tau geh may not appeal to everyone, every dish is tied to flashbacks of Chia’s childhood memories and shots of food in homely settings can move viewers to remember their own memories of food. These shots are slowed down and take on a lighter colour palette, jarringly different from the gloomy dystopian setting.

This sentimental take on food is flawlessly tied in with Singaporean culture. References to Malay, Chinese, Indian dishes and the culturally diverse supporting cast are all reminders of the mish-mash of races and cultures in Singapore.

It’s not uncommon to see food as an indicator of culture in film – to name a few, Ratatouille gives us a glimpse of French culture and Korean culture is captured in the Asian-American film Always Be My Maybe. Republic of Food does this more explicitly, using the universal love for food as a means of bringing together different people – a problem that comes with the complexity of Singapore’s society and brought across by Chia’s own xenophobic attitude.

This sensitive issue is masterfully balanced with a well-written script packed with tongue-in-cheek jokes and a strong supporting cast that performs humour well. The artistic direction keeps up the lighthearted tone of this comedy with the campy outfits on the entertainment TV set and sound designs help to enhance comical instances as well.

The web series is definitely binge-worthy with an introduction that reels you into the interesting plot and dynamic characters. I usually wait till the third episode of a series to decide if it’s binge-worthy but honestly speaking, I was hooked from the first episode of Republic of Food.  

Following episodes appropriately build up the tension that awaits in the last couple of episodes. It is lighthearted, perfect for idle viewing and has a plot that is interesting and unique for a Singaporean comedy.

You can feast your eyes on the web series here.

An optimistic pessimist. A cynical believer. And a careful dreamer. Basically the moron in oxymoron but sometimes I say things just for pun.
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