Sour, Sweet, Spicy: Making Home in Oxford Mississippi

This summer, SFA and Pihakis Foodways Documentary Filmmaker Ava Lowrey launched an annual documentary internship program to encourage and nurture emerging documentary filmmakers. This week, we’re thrilled to share Victoria De Leone’s internship film which profiles Rasita Palawan of Zaap Thai Kitchen here in Oxford, Mississippi. Read what Tori had to say about the process of making the film and watch the full film below.

I did not set out to highlight an immigration story, but at the core of things that is what “Sour, Sweet, Spicy” is. Rasita Palawan is a lot of things: a dedicated mother, a far-away daughter, an entrepreneur, and an immigrant. Her story is unique, and it is universal. Through her cooking, much like immigrant entrepreneurs and food workers across the country, Rasita has been able to bring a little bit of Thailand to Mississippi.

Zaap Thai Kitchen is the culmination of a life’s work and a community’s support. From her arrival in Oxford, through her husband’s death and the years of hard work following it, and into the opening of her own business, this college town has welcomed Rasita and her family. She talks about her work and the community in the same way, with humility, generosity and a quick smile. Since moving to Oxford a year ago, I’ve known that Rasita and Zaap are incredibly valued by the community. From the beginning of this project I’ve learned that she values the community in equal measure.

I feel privileged to have spent the summer working with Ava Lowrey and Rasita. The internship allowed me to learn a great deal about my creative process and also about this community that I’m slowly learning to call home.