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."
On the same day VIFF opened Thursday, federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly also announced streaming-company Netflix will commit $500 million over the next five years to fund original Canadian productions.
Shum said she is heartened by the streaming giant's decision, but only if it means more Canadian stories are told by Canadian filmmakers.
"That's really exciting ... if they are really going to fund Canadian filmmaking and not just want us to put American stars in Canadian productions and service them here."
Shum said it was her first time working with Pei-Pei, who is sometimes referred to as the "mother of martial arts" for her long career in Kung fu films.
Shum has admired Pei-Pei from afar for many years, and Shum said Pei-Pei, a big Grey's Anatomy fan, has admired Oh for sometime as well.
Meditation Park screens at The Centre in Vancouver, Sept. 28 at 7:00 p.m.
With files from On the Coast