The Man Who Ate A Succulent Chinese Meal: documentary about meme gets manifested

A new documentary on Jack Karlson's infamous 'succulent Chinese meal' arrest will begin production in Queensland.
A documentary on Jack Karlson titled ‘ The Man Who Ate A Succulent Chinese Meal’. Image: Kicking Television Productions. An old Caucasian man with grey hair and beard stand outside a caravan house in the woods.

A new Australian documentary about the man who was falsely arrested outside of a Chinese restaurant – and spawned a memorable meme thanks to his outlandish response on live TV – is starting production in Queensland.

On the 11th of October 1991, Jack Karlson was apprehended by Queensland Police at a Chinese restaurant in Fortitude Valley. Following a response from Karlson during the arrest that included such bizarre lines as ‘This is democracy manifest!’; ‘What is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?’, and ‘I see that you know your judo well!’, and subsequent coverage from Channel 7’s Chris Reason (who, at the time, believed he was Queensland’s most wanted criminal) – a legend was born. 

Watch the original ‘Democracy Manifest’/’Succulent Chinese Meal’ segment below

Director Heath Davis and producer Tim Randall have been a bit obsessed with Karlson since watching the original news segment.

‘Ever since I first saw the video I’ve just had a fascination with it,’ Randall said. ‘It never made any sense to me. I assumed he was a British Theatre actor who just had too many drinks and wouldn’t leave. Why else would he talk like that? Why else would the press be there? But then no-one seemed to know who he was.

‘Years later when articles started to come out about Jack, I could see that other people were asking the same questions and then to find out he was actually out there living in rural Queensland I just knew there would be more to his story.’

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Kicking Television Productions will handle production on The Man Who Ate Succulent Chinese Meal, the documentary that tells the story of Jack Karlson’s fascinating life before and after the infamous public arrest. The film is directed by Heath Davis (Christmess Locusts, Book Week) and produced by Randall.

Davis said his initial motivation behind the documentary was to focus on the comedic aspects of the story, but after meeting Karlson it was apparent that this was not going to be the light-hearted film they had set out to make – in fact, there were many dark twists and turns to Karlson’s story. 

‘One of the beauties of documentary filmmaking is you get to take your time and assemble as you go’ said Davis. ‘I can assure people will be captivated from beginning to end. We started out filming a comedy but what’s quickly becoming apparent is this is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

‘People are going to be blown away. One thing is for sure: there will be plenty of laughs and tears.’

To celebrate the official announcement of the film, Karlson declared he will be visiting the China Sea Restaurant in Milton, Brisbane where the arrest took place back in 1991. 

‘Aah to visit the lovely China Sea Restaurant once again, the scene of where the injustice happened all those many years ago,’ he said. ‘I look forward to seeing the fellow who runs the place and having one of his succulent meals, I will of course be paying in cash as always.’

The Man Who Ate A Succulent Chinese Meal is currently slated for a March 2025 release.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports