An award winning, Vancouver-based filmmaker’s movie will be one of the first screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) opening Thursday.
Director Mina Shum’s Meditation Park, starring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actor Cheng Pei-Pei, is set in Vancouver and centres around the self-discovery of a wife when she finds another woman’s underwear in her husband’s pocket.
The film also features Grey’s Anatomy actor Sandra Oh and Arrival actor Tzi Ma.
Shum, who wrote and directed the film, has had a prolific career which includes titles such as Double Happiness and Ninth Floor. But in a conversation with Stephen Quinn during CBC’s On the Coast, she admitted it can be difficult to make family-driven dramatic movies starring Asian actors in today’s film industry.
‘Things are changing’
“It’s difficult making films that aren’t Marvel comics right now, it’s as simple as that,” said Shum.
Shum said that if she, an Asian-Canadian woman, can watch a film starring a Caucasian male and relate to his character’s journey, audiences watching a film starring Pei-Pei should be able to feel the same way.
That sentiment of shared empathy was the driving force behind her creating Meditation Park.
Shum said it’s important to her to help further the visibility of Asian actors in mainstream media. She isn’t alone in her desire for more diversity among movie casting.
Recent decisions to cast Caucasian actors such as Tilda Swinton, Emma Stone and Scarlett Johansson as Asian or partially Asian characters in mainstream films have been criticized.
In early September, Meditation Park opened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and Shum said the positive audience response reinforced her belief that people can relate to all types of heroes.
“I’m seeing an openness to the very definition of what a hero is,” said Shum. “Because we’re actually having the conversation now. I’m hopeful things are changing.”