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Double Happiness

Directed by Mina Shum
Canada, 1994 (fiction, 87 minutes, colour, Cantonese / English)
Also known as "Bonheur aigre-doux"
Double Happiness
Image: © First Generation Films

Film Description:
"Irreverent, cheeky and daring, Jade Li is a twenty-two-year-old aspiring actress looking for love and her place in the world. Like so many members of Generation X, she's culture bound. What's worse is she still lives at home with her Chinese family. Jade seeks Double Happiness, a way to keep loving her family deeply, while exploring the possibilities and the pain of a young woman growing up in the nineties. As Jade struggles to maintain the balance of her two worlds, she must answer the question she's been trying to avoid: you've got one life to live, what's it gonna be?"
-- National Film Board of Canada (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Mina Shum
Produced by: Stephen Hegyes, Rose Lam Waddell
Principal Cast: Sandra Oh, Stephen Chang, Allanah Ong, Frances You, Callum Keith Rennie
Cinematography: Peter Wunstorf
Film Editing: Alison Grace
Music: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet
Production Company: First Generation Films, National Film Board of Canada / Office national du film du Canada

Awards won by Double Happiness

Notes about Double Happiness


Quotes by the Director

"A lot of men have come up to me and told me they can relate to Double Happiness, which is one woman's journey. If you can just get your work to the consumer and let them judge. It's just that some people in marketing, and they are often not women, tend to categorize towards gender."
-- Mina Shum (source)

"I went and watched Double Happiness with the first paid audience [...], and I noticed the Asian population who were in the theatre laughed that much harder, related that much deeper to this movie that I made, and it's because they're just dying to see themselves, we're just dying to see an honest representation of us. And I think that's one of the reasons I made movies in the first place."
-- Mina Shum (source)

"If I'd made this film [Double Happiness] when I was 18, the dad would have been a bad guy. But I've come to understand the difficulty of coming to a new country where your education means nothing, humbling yourself, dealing with racism. He has to deal with that and he has to raise his family with a sure hand. I wanted to show the complexities of the situation rather than pretend I have any answers."
-- Mina Shum (source)

Quotes about Double Happiness

"Double Happiness visits the familiar 'caught between two cultures' genre that aestheticized migrant tales often rehearse. This film, however, revitalizes expectations of the 'struggle for happiness'—cultural conflict between traditional parents and their modern 'Canadianized' children—and combines it with a coming-of-age tale."
-- Kass Banning (source)

"[Mina] Shum's auto-referential aesthetic, her self-reflexive play with cinematic and televisual technologies of representation that have produced stereotypes of Chinese in North America, and constructed the dominant mythology of the white family as a norm in their failure to represent families of colour, is signalled to the viewer in the film's establishing shots."
-- Christopher Gittings (source)

"In Double Happiness, the device that most overtly breaks the narrative flow is direct address to the camera. The film begins with Jade (Sandra Oh) holding a clapperboard and describing her family, and later her parents and sister also describe their feelings to the camera. As Jade points out, her family is not quite the Brady Bunch, but her allusion invites us to consider the similarities as well as the differences."
-- Jim Leach (source)

"Stephen Chang, who plays my father, is a Rambo guy, a kung-fu guy. [...] You can't speak to him with metaphors. [Mina Shum] would talk to him very physically, literally block his every action in a very Hitchcockian way. 'Turn you head a little bit. Don't open your eyes too much. Just say the lines.' With me, she'd speak on a very, very broad emotional level, about memories, colors, feelings. Mina has an astute sensibility about how people respond to direction."
-- Sandra Oh (source)

"Mina Shum's debut feature, Double Happiness, is a film that challenges the scopic drive of mainstream Hollywood films by intervening in what Ann Kaplan calls 'dominant looking relations'. The film, the first feature produced by a Chinese Canadian woman, self-consciously plays with its North American audience's expectations of cinematic gaze, narrative voice, subjectivity, and racial stereotypes."
-- Eleanor Ty (source)

Quote about Double Happiness [in French]

"Stylisé et anti-naturaliste, ce premier long métrage [Double Happiness] fait preuve de beaucoup d'assurance, tant au niveau de la direction d'acteurs que de la mise en scène. Privilégiant les couleurs saturées et les apartés des personnages à la caméra, Mina Shum trace un portrait à la fois personnel et distancié, sans la lourdeur des premières oeuvres, d'une famille chinoise qui aurait sans doute pu être la sienne."
-- Mario Cloutier (source)

Bibliography for Double Happiness

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