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By Lauren McDowell

At The Independent Picture House, we know that having a global perspective in cinema — watching movies that incorporate all kinds of cultures and voices — builds empathy and understanding that can enrich your life. (Anti-subtitles? We don’t want to hear it!) 

We’ve launched a new initiative called Indie on Wheels: a mission-driven mobile cinema project dedicated to educating and engaging communities through the power of film. This initiative hosts public screenings at a number of venues including recreation centers and libraries in the Charlotte area. 

The latest Indie on Wheels, held March 27, screened the 2020 film The Donut King, directed by Alice Gu. The documentary combines animation, interviews and archive and contemporary footage to create an immersive, engaging vehicle for sharing the story of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian immigrant who became a successful donut store owner in Los Angeles. 

The screening took place at the Independence Regional Library, followed by a panel discussion featuring Peter Han of Super G Mart (international goods and cultural center), chef Ron Ahlert, executive director of Community Culinary School of Charlotte, and Lindsay LaPlante from Refugee Support Services. 

The story of immigration, structural barriers and pathways to entrepreneurial success featured in The Donut King occurs on the West Coast but is relevant to community members right here in Charlotte. The Queen City is home to refugees, former refugees, asylees, special immigrants and humanitarian parolees from around the world. Most recently, Charlotte has been welcoming individuals from such countries as Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Afghanistan. 

Our expert panelists spoke to the experiences of immigrant and refugee communities and highlighted the potential for organizations, like those featured on our panel, to address their needs. They also talked about the importance of understanding and easing the struggles these community members often face upon their arrival in the United States, and in Charlotte in particular. 


Community Culinary School of Charlotte provides workforce development training and job placement assistance for adults who face barriers to long-term successful employment due to the root causes of poverty — lack of skills, incarceration, addiction, homelessness and veterans’ reintegration issues. CCSC’s overarching goal is for graduates to move from dependency to self-sufficiency through stable employment. 

Refugee Support Services is a 501(c)3 nonprofit post-resettlement organization that facilitates programs and intercultural relationships to promote individual autonomy, cultivate social capital and enrich our community. 

Super G Mart is the largest international supermarket in North Carolina, with spices, produce, grocery and household items from around the world. In addition to the grocery stores, Super G Mart ‘The Club’ is a designated space for the community to use in hopes of creating and supporting cultural enrichment and providing a destination where the community can gather, connect and learn through diverse activities. 


Indie on Wheels is sponsored by Culture Blocks — a community partnership between ASC, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation — to bring arts and cultural experiences closer to where residents live at no cost to participants. Culture Blocks is funded by Mecklenburg County.


We know that independent cinema has the power to forge and bridge communities, especially here in Charlotte’s vibrant creative ecosystem. That’s why when we founded The Independent Picture House in 2022, creating a place for community cinema was a cornerstone of our establishment. But as Indie on Wheels demonstrates, our founding principles don’t stop at our walls. We believe in the power of cinema to transform our community, one screening at a time. 

Learn more here about the Indie On Wheels initiative and future events!

Lauren McDowell is a writer, artist and photographer based in Charlotte.
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