‘Meditation Park’ film review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
Vancouver is in the spotlight in a lot of films, though it is often not called Vancouver. You can recognize famous landmarks in the city even when it is supposedly another city. Mina Shum’s next film Meditation Park explicitly takes place in East Vancouver and showcases various details of the area to the rest of Canada.
The film begins as if it is a spy film. Then, it transitions into an indie film and we meet Maria (Cheng Pei-Pei) completing her usual routine of going to Chinatown, getting dinner for her husband Bing (Tzi Ma), and cleaning their house.
After celebrating Bing’s 65th birthday with the rest of their family, Maria finds women’s underwear in one of the pockets of Bing’s pants and after watching an episode of Dragnet, she goes on an investigation to find out if her husband is having an affair with another woman. In the process, she does unexpected things to earn money in order to get closer to answering her questions.
The film shows various places in East Vancouver that everyone in the city knows including Chinatown, the Pacific Coliseum, and the neighbouring houses that are near the PNE. It also shows a detail that makes East Vancouver distinctive, with the parking spots in the area being sold when something is happening in the PNE. When I watched the film, I recognized a lot of places that I go to a lot, like the area that my family parks in when we go to Chinatown, the meat shop where we go to buy duck, and the parking lot near Science World.
Cheng Pei-Pei (who is an acclaimed actress in Hong Kong and seen in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) does a lot of things that you would not expect her to do in a film. I was laughing a lot during the scene where she works in an insurance company and she pronounces the famous local insurance company Sussex Insurance as Success Insurance. Also, there are a lot of funny moments from Lillian Lim’s portrayal of the parking lady that Maria works with to earn money for her investigation. Sandra Oh and Don McKellar are both in the same film again, though McKellar has a bigger role here as a parking man named Gabriel who steals sales from the women’s sales.
Meditation Park is the opening film in the Vancouver International Film Festival this year. Throughout the screening, the audience laughed a lot. When it was done, the audience clapped and gave a standing ovation to everyone who was involved in the film. Lim came to the gala in-character, even dressed the same as her character in the film.
Cheng is the executive producer of the film and she told me after the screening that she was interested in it because she liked the story of the film. I asked Shum which area in East Vancouver was the most interesting area to film, and she told me that she was interested filming in Chinatown. Most of it was shot near Shum’s house, and when they were done filming for the day she was able to go home in a few minutes.
The film is one of the best Canadian films this year. If you get a chance, see this film because it is funny and it takes place in your backyard. Meditation Park opens in limited release soon.