September 27, 2017

VIFF 2017 | Must See BC – Mina Shum Awakens 'Meditation Park'

VIFF 2017 | Cheng Pei Pei Sandra Oh Mina Shum | Meditation Park

VIFF 2017—Acclaimed Vancouver filmmaker Mina Shum explores the depth of cultural identity in Chinese immigrant women for her latest film, Meditation Park. Set and filmed in the neighbourhoods of Hastings–Sunrise and Chinatown, the BC film is a love letter to a certain local subculture and experience of Asian families.

Legendary wuxia actress Cheng Pei-pei stars as Maria, an older Chinese mother in East Vancouver, struggling with her lack of agency and identity after years of caring for her hard-headed husband (Tzi Ma). She finds solice in her dutiful daughter Ava (Sandra Oh) as she tries to figure out who she is outside of her domestic life. Pei-pei is exceptional in both comedic and dramatic turns as she balances the joy and pain of womanhood.

Ma is suitably affable, charming, and forcefully frustrating in his portrayal of Asian male identity. Oh gives a charming yet small performance as the well-meaning daughter forced to play mediator and middle-man. Even Toronto filmmaker Don McKellar offers a warm turn as a quirky neighbour Maria connects with.

Maria uses a late-in-life realization to explore her own independence, learn English, find work, and goon beyond her cultural duties as a housewife and mother. She makes friends and embraces her own sense of identity the way immigrants do. The comedy, sometimes on-the-nose or uncomfortable in its reaffirmation of certain stereotypes, comes from real places of cultural dislocation.

Meditation Park is a crowd-pleasing yet bittersweet encapsulation of different generational Chinese-Canadian identities. It confronts common themes and issues in immigrant families in funny and often touching ways. Pei-pei's humorous performance carries the film forward despite sometimes slight material.

Meditation Park screens at the opening gala of the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Sea to Sky and BC Spotlight streams.


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