Chili & Cheese

In Tobago, Dr. Desmond Dhillon saved lives. In Canada he works the graveyard shift at a convenience store. This is not the dream he uprooted his family to pursue.

When an altercation with a gluttonous customer over the store’s complimentary condiment takes a suffocating turn, the doctor may get to use his training after all.

Creative team

Director/co-writer/co-producer: Joe Pingue
Co-writer/co-producer: Sean Moore
Co-producer: Kerry Young

Filmmaker’s statement

Chili & Cheese: A Condimental Rift was written as a response to my observations as a night-hawk in the city of Toronto in the 2000s.

During my wanderings I discovered that people in the city’s late-night service industry were primarily new residents of Canada who came for a new beginning, but found it at a cost.

I encountered cab drivers, janitors and, as was the inspiration for this short film, convenience-store clerks who had traded a vocation and training in their home country for underemployment in this one.

Yes, I even met some former physicians. Their situation struck me as both tragic and absurd, so what better genre than tragicomedy to shed light on an otherwise dark situation?

Though the film ventures into the comedic, I decided to maintain a serious tone. Sparse audio design and narrow aspect ratio borrow from the stillness of Western epics to contrast with an unlikely landscape: row upon row of brightly coloured treats and sundries.

I wanted to keep the viewer asking: “Is this for real? Is this a joke? Wait, this is serious.” Ultimately, this was my attempt to inform and entertain.

The original format was 35mm. Funding for the project came from Bravo, the Ontario and Canada Arts Councils and the NFB. We were able to pay our crew and actors a respectable daily fee and filmed over three days in the dead of winter.

When we wrapped, I remember the first camera assistant handing me 250 feet of Kodak stock. It’s still in my freezer, if anyone needs it for a camera test.

About Joe Pingue

Joe Pingue

Born in Ontario, Joe Pingue is an actor, writer and director. He studied at the York University theatre conservatory programme.

Chili & Cheese: A Condimental Rift  has won best in show awards at Encounters Film Fest (Bristol, UK) and Marin County Fair (San Francisco, CA). It has screened at festivals in Canada, the US and Europe and is also part of the REEL Canada film collection, touring high schools across Canada since 2011.

Joe works as an actor in film and television and is currently developing his first feature.

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