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Double Happiness (movie post)

Double Happiness is the story of Jade Li, an aspiring actress who comes from a very conservative and traditional Chinese family. Jade, caught between the expectations of her parents and her own aspirations, finds herself leading a double life. She comes to a crossroads after meeting Mark (Callum's character), a graduate student, outside a club. Their relationship slowly develops. But when her parent's discover it, Jade must choose between living her own life (and dating Mark) or meeting her parents' expectataions.

Double Happiness is widely considered to be Callum's breakthrough film. He received his first Genie nomination for his performance as Mark.

Sandra Oh was born and raised in Ottawa. She began acting at the age of 15. Her breakthrough role was in the film, The Diary of Evelyn Lau. She was a regular on the HBO series Arli$$, made a second film with Mina Shum - Long Life, Happiness, and Prosperity, and can currently be seen on Gray's Anatomy. And of course, in 2004, she appeared in Wilby Wonderful with Callum. Sandra's IMDB page.

Mina Shum, IMDB page, was born in Hong Kong and raised in Canada. She both wrote and directed Double Happiness, her first feature film.

The IMDB page: Double Happiness 1994.

Cast / Characters:

Sandra Oh
Stephen Chang
Alannah Ong
Frances You
Claudette Carracedo
Callum Keith Rennie
So Yee Shum
Greg Chen
Johnny Mah
Laara Ong
Mimi Mok
Tony Seaver
Wong Shuck
Mina Shum
May Tam
Rose Lam Waddell
Estelle Coppens
Lesley Ewen
Donald Fong
Nathan Fong
Dennis Foon
Kevin Kelly
Gene Kiniski
Tosca Chin Wah Leong

Jade Li
Dad Li (Lead) (as Stephen M.D. Chang)
Mom Li
Pearl Li
Lisa Chan
Mark (as Callum Rennie)
Auntie Bing
Uncle Bing
Andrew Chau
Mrs. Mar
No -No! Club Bouncer
See-Fu Geomancer
Janet Eng
Lead Woman in Scene with Jade
Carmen the Casting Director
Ah Hong
Dr. Ming Chu / Bartender
Lead Man in Scene with Jade
Man at Bus Stop
Linda Taylor Wong, Ch. 4 News

Also Known As: Bonheur aigre-doux (Canada: French title)

Year: 1994 (US release date: July 28, 1995)

Runtime: 87 mins

Country: Canada

Language: English / Cantonese

IMDB rating: 7.2/10 (Number of votes as of 03-11-08: 604)

Genre: Drama

Keywords: Asian American, Immigration, Actress Audition, Culture Clash, Father Daughter Relationship, Gay Bar, Mother Daughter Relationship, Independent Film


Toronto International Film Festival 1994
Best Canadian Feature Film - Special Jury Citation - Mins Shum (won)

Toronto International Festival of Young Cinema 1994
Audience Award in the International Feature Film Competition - Mina Shum (won)
Special Mention in the International Feature Film Competition - Sandra Oh (won)

Genie Awards 1994
Best Achievement in Film Editing: Alison Grace (won)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Oh (won)
Best Achievement in Cinematography: Peter Wunstorf (nominated)
Best Achievement in Direction: Mina Shum (nominated)
Best Motion Picture: Rose Lam Waddell and Stephen Hegyes (nominated)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Callum Keith Rennie (nominated)
Best Screenplay, Original: Mina Shum (nominated)

Berlin International Film Festival 1995
Wolfgang Staudte Award: Mina Shum (won)

There are 20 user comments listed on IMDB.

One example:
An under-appreciated film (as many Canadian films are), Double Happiness expresses brilliantly the tightrope one often has to walk between pleasing others and pleasing oneself. Jade Li, portrayed masterfully by neophyte Sandra Oh, must choose between her desires for love and stardom and her desire to please her demanding, suffocating, ultra-traditional Chinese father. Her life complicates when she meets a sweet English major named Mark, played by Callum Keith Rennie, a hidden treasure of an actor; the scenes between Jade and Mark dynamically reflect the most uncertain nature in love, an uncertainty which often makes love all the more worth fighting for. Yet, there is a subtlety in the way writer/director Mina Shum presents Jade's nervous breakdown of a life, a subtlety which craftily creates the effect of slowly drawing the viewer into the spiralling life of Jade. With its powerful, yet simplistic (in the Hal Hartley vein) direction and tremendous performances, Double Happiness stands as a remarkable film which deserves more attention. Pity!

You can find all the comments here.

Callum Quotient: About 25% - Approx. 15 minutes of screentime


You have no idea how hard it was for me to post only 3 screencaps.

ETA: Bonus Ice Cream Porn gif

  • Lisa: What is it that you want Jade?
    Jade Li: To win the Academy Award.
    Lisa: And I get invited to the ceremony?
    Jade Li: Of course. You know, I'd get nominated for a really dramatic part. Something really hard and real. I don't know, something that I had to, like, gain weight for. Something.

  • Mark: Um, are you, um, emotionally attached to any, uh, guy? Uh, I mean, uh, other than, uh, your dad?

  • Jade: Listen, I'm sorry. I didn't know what else to do.
    Mark: I wasn't looking for like a lifetime commitment. Just a phone number. Breakfast. A...a...like a cup of instant coffee would've sufficed.
    Jade: Listen, Mark, can I buy you an ice cream?
    Mark: You remember my name. That's nice.

  • Mark: Normally in the mating ritual, the two people, they go out. They, they, they talk, get to know one another. Bowl. (Jade laughs.) Well, that kind of stuff.

  • Jade: You know, you're obnoxiously sweet.
    Mark: Maybe I'm sweetly obnoxious.

  • Jade: You don't understand. I could never hurt them like that.
    Mark: But you can hurt me, right? Just like that... Just like that first night, I...I should've let you walk away. I...sighs

  • Callum reportedly wore his own glasses.

  • Sandra Oh is a Korean-Canadian playing a Chinese-Canadian

  • Double Happiness was shot in 30 days during the spring of 1994

Interesting scenes:
  • The pick-up scene outside the club.

  • The one night stand. Kissing! And she licks him!

  • Jade and Mark meet again.

  • Jade's arranged date takes her to a gay bar.

  • Jade tells her mother about her date.

  • Mark goes to see Jade at her house.

  • Jade chooses between her parents and Mark. ***aka The Break-up scene***

Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
Poll #1151698 Double Happiness

Overall Rating

Excellent. Surprising, huh?
Very good, really.
Eh, it's okay.
Ummm, it's bad.
So bad you wish you could wipe it from your memory.


Violence? Huh? Were we watching the same film?
Maybe a teeny tiny bit.
Some. A typical amount.
Way over the top violence-wise.
You do realize it's a Callum film we're talking about. /o\


YES! Very funny. Hysterical, in fact.
It's has its funny scenes. Yes.
A bit. You'll crack a smile once in a while.
No. Not all. Downright humorless.
Uh, unintentionally funny maybe.

Sexual Content

Yes, there is. A scene or two.
The usual. Callum's presence = sexual content.
Not enough. Really, really not enough. Fade to black sucks.
Sadly, not even a teeny tiny bit. :-(

Sexual Violence

None at all.
Maybe just a little bit.
More than a little but less than a lot.
Quite a lot.
OMFG! It never stops. /o\

So, Mark...


He's an absolute sweetheart!
He's a good guy, the type you take home to meet your parents.
Well, I guess he's kinda okay. Maybe. If you squint.
He's not very nice. Not nice at all.
This guy is bad news.

How many people does he kill?

Not a single solitary soul! \o/
Maybe one? It was an accident. Really.
Three? Five? I think?
You don't want to know.
Too many to count.

Just how crazy is he?

Dorky, yes. Crazy, no.
A little weird maybe. He's a strange one.
Well, he's not what I'd call well-adjusted.
Quite crazy, yes.
Certifiable. Ready for the straitjacket and a padded cell.

Hotness factor?

Like the burning sun.
Of course he is. It's Callum.
Adorkably hot.
Not so much hot as adorkable. Floppy hair!
Not at all. Yes, that means the apocalypse is upon us.

How queer is he?

Perhaps bent is a better description.
I don't think so. But it's hard to tell.
Nope. Straight as straight can be.

Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)

::He lives! \o/::

Achieving Double Happiness:
An Interview with Mina Shum
By Monique Harvey

Mina Shum is a film director. Her first feature-length movie, Double Happiness (opening in Canada on July 28), has already received critical acclaim in both Europe and Canada. The film's success has taken Shum to Berlin, Cannes, Toronto and Montreal to participate, and receive, awards for her film-making. Perhaps her most prestigious award to date was winning the Wolfgang Staudte award - a cash windfall of 20,000 deutchmarks, which Shum used to pay off her student loan.

"It's been a bit crazy," Mina explained to me over the phone. "You're supposed to smile and look great but all the while you're tired. I went to film school learning how to focus a camera. No one can prepare you for this [success]."

Double Happiness is a movie about Jade Li ( played by Sandra Oh), a Chinese-Canadian woman who struggles to find her own identity in a world that attempts to limit and define how she is to think, speak and act. Even the name of the movie suggests a dichotomy. Double happiness is the Chinese symbol for marriage, which is literally two happiness symbols joined together in union. But the movie is about Jade trying to find two types of happiness. One is what her family wants and one is what she wants, and it's a fine line that she has to walk to find either.

Because Shum is also of Chinese descent, the trials and tribulations of Jade Li are very much her own. Like her character creation, Shum's parents were critical of her pursuit of the Arts, acting and directing in particular.

"(My parents) were really wary of me going into the Arts. I come from an immigrant background and my family wanted me to get a steady job. But to go out and become a profound artist? It didn't make sense to them. It's not a safe career. The word 'freelance' doesn't even exist in my parents' vocabulary.

"But in terms of making films, my parents are poor. I am not upper class, and most people who go to university are. That was a very big distinction. I don't think I've ever noticed the class distinction as harshly as I have until I went to university. But I needed the education. I couldn't have done what I am doing right now without going to school.

"The whole film was very much a part of me in terms of the sensibilities and the camera angles and the colours. You can walk into my house, and you know that the person who lives there would love Double Happiness. It's not the fact that she is the director, but because all the colours are the same and there is that sensibility that is similar.

"When I was 19, I was at UBC pursuing my degree in theatre, which was then acting and directing for stage. Later, I realised that instead of trying to do all the different art forms I was interested in, why don't I make films, because they encompass everything: music sound design, directing, writing, photography. That's how I fell into it. Actually, I didn't fall into it. I was completely focused the whole time. Because, as a director, what you are essentially doing is conducting a band. And the band consists of Sandra Oh as the lead singer; the guitarist will be Peter Wunstorf, director of Photography; the production designer is your bass player and your producer is the drummer. And it's my job is to conduct and write it.

"I live, breathe and eat film. For example: What magazines are on my bed? Sight and Sound, Film Comment, plus the book Woody Allen on Woody Allen. All I do is watch film. I was very fortunate that I have been training in the Arts since I was 15. I was a concert photographer, I sang in a band, directed theatre and acted as well. All those things really helped me."

With the character of Jade Li, Shum has created a hero who does not give up on her dreams. Jade is someone who wants to succeed. She has the courage to follow her convictions and to go beyond the safe, quiet world of her parents' home.

"I think that it is important to create heroes that are not the usual Schwartzenager/Bruce Willis type. If I could sit through Apollo 13 and imagine myself as Tom Hanks and worrying about how I am going to land the ship, there's no reason why someone like Tom Hanks shouldn't be able to sit through my film and feel the struggles of Jade. Because that's when freedom happens. That's when equality is really reached and equality is what I'm pushing for. There are a lot of people who have identified with Jade so far, and that is really good."

(At this point I wanted to stick up my hand and cry, "Yes! I identify with Jade's struggle to become her own person. Thank-you, Mina Shum, for portraying twenty-somethings as hard-working individuals instead of slackers and dead-beats." But that would have been shameless hero-worshipping.)

I'm prepared for the backlash of my next question: How do you feel being pigeon-holed as Canada's most successful Chinese-Canadian filmmaker? It's the question that has dogged Shum since the success of Double Happiness. I know this, so I accentuate the question in a very sarcastic, haughty voice that provokes laughter from Shum.

"The most fortunate thing about Double Happiness is the critical acclaim it has received. Which has moved me beyond the token figurehead, the "Oh, she's the Chinese-Canadian filmmaker from Canada." It's the "She's the award-winning filmmaker from Canada."
"But it gets frustrating because I answer that question a lot. But at the same time I know that I'm a first. So, whenever there's a first, the media takes note of that. It makes me newsworthy. So if it means that more people come to see my film because I'm newsworthy, then that's cool. But has it been difficult for me to obtain success? Not really, because it is hard for anybody. It's being in film. It's trying to find your own individual voice. So I can't cry you a river about how difficult it was. But I can certainly say that there has been a lot more attention given to me because I am precisely all those newsworthy things: I'm the Chinese- Canadian filmaker from Canada. I'm also female. I'm also young. I'm only 29. I'm only 29 and I look 13."

Although the promotion of Double Happiness has jetted Shum from one side of the Atlantic to the other, she is already in the early stages of her new project, Drive She Said.

"Drive She Said is a romantic comedy about falling in love with oneself and the freedom of the human spirit. I'm really excited about it. It's another film about the search for self, just like Double Happiness. If Double Happiness is about how to find the courage to dream, then Drive She Said is about how we as women find the courage to know about our futures. We've never been in these positions of power before in the entire history of our gender, where we can have opportunities and be financially independent. So what do we do? What about all that encoding about how we are supposed to act. Do we ignore that? Do we take some part of it? Think about Jade in Double Happiness. Is she Chinese? Is she Canadian? Which part does she ignore, what does she keep with her? It's the same question: How do you marry tradition and change?"

Shum's main directive in her films is to highlight the spirit of the individual. This is what makes her films so believable. She touches the core of hopes and wishes and uncertainties that humans face daily, while interpreting human nature as essentially good and eager to achieve.

"I think that everyone has a dream. It's whether they're allowed to share their dream with others or have the courage to share with others. And I think in Jade's case, she definitely found the courage to be her own person. That was very difficult. I think that everybody wants to be something when they grow up. It's just that they have been taught they are not allowed to be that person. "That's not right," and "Women don't do this." And we, as individuals, need to break those boundaries down. And dream again. There is all this nihilist cynicism that is happening. I mean I grew up with the Punk Rock thing. I'm not stupid, but for some reason, people think that smart has to do with cynical. You don't have to be cynical to be smart. You can be melancholy- optimistic, which is where I'm at. Because, like I said, I believe in the goodness of human nature. But, I also know that life is really rough. And, if we as human beings can just admit that, "Yeah, it's really hard, but I'm going to get back on my own two feet and I'm going to go at it again because why not." If there is one thing that Generation X has promoted it is the attitude of "What the fuck for?" Well, I'm saying, "Why the fuck not?" If you have one life to live, what's it going to be? You are going to do this only once. Are you going to waste it?

"I don't know how old I was when I developed this idea, but I thought: When I am a grandmother, and I'm sitting in my rocking chair with my grandkids, I want to be able to say to them, "Well, I tried and I failed," rather than say: "Well, I could have, but I didn't." And I think that this attitude is because my parents were very safe, so I decided to be the risk taker. Opposites attract, I guess."

Overall, Shum envisions the future of films (especially her own) with an optimism she holds towards human nature.

"We're in a very intolerant sound-byte society right now. They all want to know what happens in a movie, so you have to rephrase it in a very simplistic way. Plot: this is what happened. Enjoy it.

But there is a market for the intelligent in-house film and for the independent mind, which is all very exciting. It means we're moving into a society where there is bigger tolerance for the individual. Where there are children being brought up where "gay" is not a dirty word. And that is really exciting, and really cool. But at the same time you have "Water World." What the Hell's that? "Fishtar!" I don't really know if we need that type of movie. If you release a film, that's fine. But you can also add intelligent commentary in a film. And that's important."

From here.

Mina Shum
(1965- )
Director and Writer

Mina Siungai Shum is a successful Canadian independent filmmaker who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has said of herself that "…it's the writing and directing that really gets me excited. I think it's in my blood…. the most satisfying thing for me is to work with my friends on a movie." (Caddell, p. 28)

Mina Shum was born in Hong Kong in 1965. She immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of nine months and grew up in Vancouver. As a teenager there, she had a part-time job at a McDonald's restaurant that she says "… taught me the importance of being able to multi-task…" (Johnson, p. 44) She left home at the age of eighteen.

Shum attended the University of British Columbia and obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Theatre) in 1988 and a Diploma in Film and Television Studies in 1990. Later, she trained to become a director at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto.

Shum has written and directed several feature films. She developed her first, Double Happiness (1994), while a resident at the Canadian Film Centre. This film is a semi-autobiographical story of a Chinese-Canadian girl who struggles with the conflicts that arise between her family's traditional expectations and her desire for independence. Double Happiness premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1994 and won a Special Jury Citation and the Metro Media Prize. Among the other awards garnered by the film were the Wolfgang Staudt Prize for Best First or Second Feature at the 1995 Berlin International Film Festival and a Genie award for Best Editing. The star of Double Happiness, Sandra Oh, won a Genie for Best Actress. The film received excellent reviews when it opened in Canada and the United States in 1995.

Mina Shum's second feature, Drive, She Said, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1997 and was in official competition at the Turin Delle Donne Film Festival. Her third feature film, Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity was screened as part of the Canadian Perspective Program at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. The film is about a young girl who uses Taoist magic to help her mother. The producer, Raymond Massey, speaking of working with Shum on the film, has said, "This is the calmest set that I have ever worked on, and a lot of that has to do with Mina's personality. She never gets angry…. There is never any anger or confrontation, which has the magical effect of winning everyone on board with her program." (Caddell, p. 27)

Shum has also produced, written and directed a number of short films including Picture Perfect (1989), Shortchanged (1990), Love In (1991), Me, Mom and Mona (short documentary, Stephen Hegyes, co-producer, 1993) and Thirsty (short documentary, 1997). As well, she wrote and directed the film Hunger (part of Breaking Up In Three Minutes, a Cineworks Omnibus Film).

Mina Shum directed a television movie entitled Mob Princess for the W Network and an episode of the anthology series Bliss for broadcast on the Oxygen and Showcase channels. More recently, she has directed Various Miracles, one of the episodes in The Shields Stories, a television series based on the stories of Canadian author Carol Shields, produced in association with the W Network.

Found here.

By Luke McKeehan

Double Happiness is Vancouver filmmaker Mina Shum’s feature debut. The lush, million dollar, semi-autobiographical film is about a twenty-two year old aspiring actress trying to reconcile the values of her traditional Chinese family with her assimilation into mainstream culture.

To someone like myself — who saw the transformation of this film from an unknown British Columbia independent picture to being a festival favorite at the 1994 Toronto International Film Festival — recognizing the hard work that went into the process is somewhat anti-climactic. I prefer a Cinderella story of the independent producers arriving at the Toronto airport with only one copy of their film and eventually being blessed with tremendous media attention and distribution offers.

The reality of Double Happiness is that it was a long, hard road by writer/director Mina Shum and producer Stephen Hegyes. Shum and Hegyes met while both attended University of British Columbia film school. Although they had only worked on one project together — a series of screenings for student productions — they were comfortable with each other as partners and it laid the foundation for future collaboration

Coincidentally, both ended up making successful student films (after having them) voted down by the class. Hegyes made The Closet, which he eventually sold and recouped all of his money. Shum made Picture Perfect, for which she received a nominal fee from the National Film Board (NFB). When school finished, the two pursued different avenues in the film business. Hegyes got involved in commercials and learned about producing while Shum perfected writing grant applications and making short films

Later Shum honed her craft at Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. She then returned to Vancouver with a script for Banana Split — later renamed Double Happiness — and a Canada Council grant to make her film. But the business side of film was getting in the way of her creativity and someone else was needed to push the film along. It was time for Shum to find a producer. In 1991, Shum ran into Hegyes and gave him the script. "I read the script for Double Happiness and thought it was great," says Hegyes. "It was about her family — it was about everybody’s family."

The difficult journey to Double Happiness's first taste of success — at the Toronto International Film Festival — began in 1992 when the first annual New Views program (jointly operated by Telefilm Canada, the NFB and B.C. Film) turned down Shum and Hegyes application for financing. The rejection was a tough lesson for Shum, as she had really put all of her hopes into the New Views program.

SHUM: "I was hedging my bets just in case Double Happiness had to be made as an art film. I had a $40,000 grant from Canada Council and another $18,000 from Multiculturalism. I was sure the film would be made, but New Views seemed perfect."
HEGYES: "We were going to make the movie. Whether it was with fifty to sixty grand in council money or the $400,000 from New Views II."

Nevertheless, the disappointment from the initial New Views rejection motivated Shum to make Me, Mom & Mona with a Kickstart grant from Telefilm and the Director’s Guild. The documentary short features Shum with her sister and mother discussing the lies they tell their father to keep the family stable.

SHUM: " Me, Mom & Mona saved my ass. Spiritually and literally. It affirmed my own talent as a filmmaker and showed others, eventually, that I was ready to make a feature film."
HEGYES: "From a thematic standpoint, Me, Mom & Mona dealt with a lot of the same subjects as Double Happiness . As a producer, I realized what the potential of this film could provide for investors."

The film got into the 1993 Toronto International Film Festival and they used this opportunity as a springboard for both Mina Shum and Double Happiness. Hegyes booked a screening room during the festival, and rounded up agency representatives from Telefilm, BC Film and numerous distributors to see Me, Mom & Mona.

HEGYES: "The result was that it received a great reception in Toronto. Your nightmare as a producer is that some distributor will be watching your film on fast forward in their office while talking on the phone. Instead, we had a room packed with four hundred people watching it. They [the audience] did get into the emotions of the film. We wanted to put a picture into their minds to make them understand what Double Happiness would look and feel like."

Me, Mom & Mona received a special jury citation at the 1993 Toronto festival. The pair wisely wore the hat of publicist while showcasing their film. These two factors, combined with the reception the film received among the press and buyers at the festival, set the stage for their application to New Views III.

To capitalize on their good fortune, Shum, in advance, had prepared a press release to coincide with the announcement of the jury citation and sent it out to all of the prospective funding agencies. Shum and Hegyes wanted everyone, who had the power to green-light Double Happiness, to know that this film could and would be made and they were the two to do it. Subsequently, they were invited to pitch the film for New Views III in Vancouver. Both Shum and Hegyes believe that the hype and publicity surrounding Me, Mom & Mona significantly elevated their status in the eyes of the funding agencies.

HEGYES: "We were skeptical, as we’d lost New Views before, but nevertheless we spent the week before the pitch, in Vancouver, preparing ourselves. We had the more conventional items, such as a budget, a strip-boarded schedule and some prospective location photos. Again, working to put the ‘picture’ together for the agencies. As well, Mina put together a video of movie clips high-lighting various stylistic elements that she wanted to emulate in Double Happiness . There were elements of design, blocking, direction, camera movement and lighting from Jim Jarmusch, Scorsese and others. This really put us over the top — we left the pitch meeting feeling that we’d blown them away."
SHUM: "This has always been a theme for me; I mean how do you make your view so solid that they can’t say no. Rejection has been a big thing for me — we learned from the first New Views and didn’t give up."

Double Happiness was shot on location in Vancouver during the spring of 1994 and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. For Hegyes, Shum and Rose Lam Waddell (who had since joined as producer), the work for Double Happiness was far from over. They arrived three weeks before the festival began and stayed in a crappy hotel room and worked, in conjunction with their publicist, Virginia Kelly, on a strategy to ‘position’ and promote the film in Toronto.

SHUM: "This was our time. I was never going to get another New Views grant, so it was now or never. I think Stephen and I approached Toronto and New York [The Independent Feature Film Market] with this attitude. If we are going to form our little niche of the ‘Mina Shum film’ we had better start doing it now."
HEGYES: "The two most important things to any independent producer at any festival are the press and buyers. They are the only reason you should be there."

Mina Shum, Stephen Hegyes and Rose Waddell are now sifting through numerous distribution offers. At the awards ceremony in Toronto, Atom Egoyan donated $5,000 of his Perspectives Canada award [for Exotica ] to Shum. This is a traditional gesture by Perspectives Canada winners to honor up-and-coming young filmmakers which, coincidentally, was started by Egoyan himself several years ago. Double Happiness has since received a great review in Variety , excellent exposure in New York and a wonderful homecoming at the Vancouver Film Festival — the culmination of their hard work and determination over the past three years. Double Happiness has been nominated for seven Genie Awards (Canadian version of the Academy Awards) and Shum is currently touring with the film in Europe."

Mina Shum's Double Happiness won two of the seven Genie Awards it was nominated for: Best Actress for Sandra Oh, and Best Editing. It also played to sold-out audiences at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. Later it won a Special Jury Prize award and the People's Choice Award at Torino, Italy. The film also cleaned up in Berlin where it won The Wolfgang Staudte Award (for best first or second feature film). Shum is pleased to announce that she can now pay off her student loans with the accompanying cash prize. FineLine picked up Double Happiness up for U.S. distribution and its theatrical release did quite well and it is now available on video.

Copyright © 1994 Reel Independence.

Found here via the wayback machine.

Double shot of Happiness
Sandra Oh and Mina Shum shinne

It was no accident that Sandra Oh won the Genie Award as best actress for her splendid star turn in Mina Shum's Double Happiness. The effervescent Sandra Oh really is star material. Her performance is both sublime and explosive.

Now you can see for yourself. Double Happiness is finally getting its commercial release here after first bursting onto screens at last year's Toronto filmfest, scoring seven Genie nominations and two awards last December, and then earning Shum prizes at both the Berlin and Torino festivals.

It was worth waiting for. Double Happiness is that wonderful, that fresh, that beautiful.

The story is deceptively simple: Oh plays a bright, ambitious, 22-year-old Chinese-Canadian woman who still lives at home in Vancouver with her strictly traditional parents. She struggles to balance her Canadian-bred sense of freedom and individuality with her parents' rigid expectations. The struggle breaks into open hostilities when she dates a young Canadian man of European descent. The father in particular is shocked. There are only bittersweet solutions to the dilemma.

I say "simple" because it sounds as if you've seen or heard this saga before, with some other ethnic twist perhaps.

I say "deceptive" because Vancouver writer-director Shum's version, in large part autobiographical, hits your senses with such vitality, such nerve, such panache, that you feel it's the only story like this you've ever heard. The supporting cast to Oh is up to her high standards, especially Callum Rennie as the boyfriend, Alannah Ong as Mom Li, Stephen Chang as Dad Li, Frances You as Pearl Li and even Shum herself in a starling cameo as a bitch with a bite.

But the heart of the matter is all about Shum, as director, and Oh, as star. They are an exceptional team, creatively. Each makes a contribution here that perfectly complements the other's effort, as if Oh had somehow consumed Shum's reality and transformed her into a universal fictional character.

Oh, a Korean-Canadian actress celebrated for her stage and TV work, literally glows on the silver screen. As much as she works with an in-your-face energy, she can also be incredibly subtle. So there are moments in Double Happiness when nothing is said but everything understood. Shum's strength is both in story telling - this movie is actually about something which has substance in our multi-cultural country - and in visual styling - the movie looks terrific.

Shum and cinematographer Peter Wunstorf move the camera around like mercury, especially in the fluid night scenes. The color palette is rich and vibrant, like the emotions here. The result is more happiness than most movies ever offer.

Found here

Maclean's July 31, 1995

In Double Happiness, Vancouver director Mina Shum's extraordinary feature debut, one of the most touching scenes involves an audition. The movie's heroine, a Chinese-Canadian named Jade (Sandra Oh), is testing for a bit part as a waitress in a TV drama. Facing a tribunal of film-makers in an austere warehouse space, she gamely reads her two lines: "Anything to drink with that?" and "Would you like gravy with your fries?" The director suggests she try it with an accent. "What kind of accent do you want me to do, a Parisian accent?" Jade asks, with a smile and a sassy French inflection. The director looks back at her in stony silence. Chastened, Jade apologizes and gives him what he wants. "Yes," she says, lowering her gaze and looking suddenly docile, "a very good Chinese accent I can do for you."

Both the star of Double Happiness and its writer-director have lived through such auditions in real life. Sandra Oh, 24, and Mina Shum, 29, both grew up in Canada. But, as struggling actors of Asian descent, they became all-too-familiar with the rituals of ethnic casting. Their careers crossed paths, serendipitously, in 1991. Shum and Oh were among 2,000 Asian actors who auditioned for the title role of a teenage prostitute in the CBC-TV drama The Diary of Evelyn Lau. Oh won the part - a huge break for her - while Shum landed a minor role as Lau's social worker. The two finally met on the set in Vancouver. By then, Shum was looking for someone to star in Double Happiness, her semi-autobiographical tale of a Chinese-Canadian girl at odds with her parents. In Oh, a first-generation Korean-Canadian, she found a remarkable talent - and an alter ego whose experience echoed her own with uncanny fidelity.

Like Jade in Double Happiness, both Shum and Oh were torn between two cultures as teenagers. Defying their parents' wishes, both left home at 18 to pursue theatrical ambitions. And now, their careers have converged with the kind of magic that happens only in the movies. As a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy, Double Happiness is a variation on one of the most overworked genres in Canadian cinema. But it seems utterly fresh and innovative - and not just because it unveils a previously uncharted corner of the cultural mosaic. Yes, Shum is the first Chinese-Canadian woman to direct a widely released feature film. But her real accomplishment is that she has broken with a drab tradition of coming-of-age realism to create a witty, vividly stylish portrait of the artist as a young woman.

Produced for just $1 million, Double Happiness is living up to the good fortune suggested by its title. It has won awards at film festivals in Toronto and Berlin, as well as two Genies (including Best Actress for Oh's performance). And this week, the movie opens commercially in both Canada and the United States, a rare departure from the usual pattern of Canadian films trickling down to American audiences long after their Canadian run. Double Happiness has received strong advance praise from U.S. critics, and Fine Line Features, its American distributor, is aggressively promoting Shum as a hot, new independent film-maker.

Last week, during a blitz of back-to-back interviews in New York City, Shum was still reeling from the Cinderella story of the film's success. "Pinch me," she said, "I'm still playing emotional catch-up. I'm staying at this designer hotel, the Paramount, a place I could never afford to stay in myself. Yesterday, I did a Village Voice photo shoot lying on my bed in lingerie. And we just got an RSVP from [the Basketball Diaries star] Leonardo DiCaprio for the L.A. première - I can't believe these people want to see my movie."

Double Happiness has terrific charm, much of which emanates directly from Oh's complex and candid performance as Jade. The film is told entirely from her point of view, right from the opening scene, in which she talks directly to the camera against a lipstick-red backdrop: "I said I would never make a big deal out of being Chinese," she begins, introducing her family. "They're very Chinese, if you know what I mean. But for the moment, just forget they're Chinese. Just think of them as any old white family. Though you could probably just turn on a TV set and see that. I grew up wondering why we could never be the Brady Bunch. The Brady Bunch never needed subtitles."

In fact, the family dialogue flips naturally back and forth between English and subtitled Cantonese. The film's simple narrative revolves around Jade's growing estrangement from her parents as they discourage her acting ambitions and try to marry her off to a Chinese lawyer. Jade leads a double life. She falls for a nice white boy named Mark (Callum Rennie), sleeping with him the same night they meet outside a club. The affair drives a rift between Jade and her father, played by martial-arts actor Stephen Chang, whose wooden portrayal of repression serves as the movie's one major false note. And all the characters seem a little flat compared with Jade.

But on the whole, the film's family portrait rings true, perhaps because it is so close to the director's own family. Just like Jade, Shum grew up with a younger sister, an older brother, a protective mother and a strict father who worked as security guard. Shum, who emigrated from Hong Kong with her family when she was nine months old, grew up in Vancouver. She spent five of her teenage years working part-time in a McDonald's restaurant. "When I was 18, I moved out, and it was the hardest thing I ever did," she recalls. "I was taught all my life that until I 'married out' I should not move out. And yes, there was a Caucasian boy. But it was more that I wanted to be an artist. They would have been happy if I'd stayed at McDonald's."

While studying film and theatre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, she was estranged from her parents. "My father wouldn't speak to me," she recalls. Since then, they have reconciled. Her parents, who played bit parts in Double Happiness, "were shocked when they saw the film," says Shum. "It was the first time they knew how I felt. But now they're very proud of their daughter. My father sees me as a successful entrepreneur."

Even after earning a BA in theatre and a diploma in film production and then training as a director at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, Shum maintains that she learned the basics of film-making from selling burgers at McDonald's. "It taught me the importance of being able to multi-task," she says, "cleaning while you go, smiling, knowing how many Big Macs are on the grill, knowing there's toilet paper in the bathroom, dealing with a lineup in the drive-through."

During the 30-day shoot of Double Happiness, she was occasionally overwhelmed by the complexity of the task she had assigned herself. The movie includes a lazy-Susan shot of Jade's family at dinner, with the camera at the centre of the table, swivelling through 360 degrees to track their conversation. It was extremely demanding for a novice director. "I never should have done that the first time out," she says. "I remember coming on set crying because I didn't think I could do it."

But Shum was determined to make a movie with a strong visual signature. "I saw this film as a portraiture in large geometric shapes and candy colors," she says. "You should be able to squint your eyes and it will be like a poster graphic. I really wanted to make art. I'm so sick of reality - television does reality all the time."

Now, with Double Happiness behind her, Shum is hoping to up the ante with her next movie, Drive, She Said. She has written the script and is waiting for funding. "It's a romantic comedy about falling in love with yourself," Shum says. She wants Sandra Oh to star, as a bank teller on the lam with a thief who takes her hostage. "It's about our generation at the close of the millennium - do we take the traditional path to adulthood, or do we carve out our own space?" Shum, it seems, has made up her mind - to go for double or nothing.

Found here.


Official site: Fine Line Features: Double Happiness

A study guide for "Double Happiness" which focuses on the history of "women in film." From Vancouver's Pacific Cinémathèque. (PDF file) The History of Film - Women in Film - Double Happiness

Sandra Oh has an official website here.


In the Summer by fox1013
The Path of Happiness by jenboo
Venn Diagram by lilac_one
ETA: Adjusting by slidellra.

If anyone knows of other fic, let me know.

scriggle's Double Happiness picspam can be found here.

c_regalis posted caps here, here, and here.


The movie is available through most online dvd retailers: Double Happiness at amazon.com. The region 1 dvd is also being sold on amazon.uk. Sadly, it is a bare bones dvd with no extras but at least it finally got a release thanks to Sandra Oh's fame from Gray's Anatomy.

In short, Double Happiness is a wonderful small film. Well worth watching to see young Callum and young Sandra Oh.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
This is awesome, and makes me want to rewatch RIGHT NOW. \mark/

(I, um, wrote a DH snippet.)
Mar. 10th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
I love Double Happiness. And I crush on Mark (as if that weren't obvious. *g*)

I knew there was more fic out there. YAY!
Mar. 10th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
Whee! Post! \double happiness/

And it's a wonderful post! ♥ And I can only imagine how hard it had to be for you to only post 3 screencaps. *pets* You are my hero, really. I, uh, will read the articles later. Because, you know, I am, uh. At work.

I will also stop reading the fanfics.

Any minute now.

Mar. 10th, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)

It was sooooo hard c! I have so many favorite caps.

I know how it is. I'm at work too.

PS. I'm waiting for meresy to come by and post all the gifs I know she has.

Edited at 2008-03-10 01:48 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - c_regalis - Mar. 10th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 10th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
Why, oh why do I have to go to work? I want to rewatch it right now!

Wonderful writeup! ♥
Mar. 10th, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
I got to rewatch it a couple of times to put this post together. \s/
Mar. 10th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)

One of my all-time favorite CKR and S.O. movies. Thank you for the awesome post and fic recs!

Mar. 10th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
It's one of my all time faves too. We have good taste. :D
(no subject) - helleboredoll - Mar. 11th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 10th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC)

I &hearts 555-Mark. The big dork.

I'm lamenting the fact that this post doesn't contain the ice cream pr0n, though. Think I can post that gif? *g*
Mar. 10th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
You definitely SHOULD. Just don't... you know. Overdo it. :D
(no subject) - meresy - Mar. 10th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - c_regalis - Mar. 10th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - c_regalis - Mar. 10th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - c_regalis - Mar. 10th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - scriggle - Mar. 10th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 10th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Eeeee! I think this is the first one I've actually got to vote on! *glee* Great post!
Mar. 10th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:07 am (UTC)
EEEEEEEE! *hearts Mark, takes him home and cuddles him*

You have no idea how hard it was for me to post only 3 screencaps.
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
Hey, bring back Mark! You at least have to share. *g*

Mar. 11th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
I loves him. And his cardigans. HEE!

Mar. 11th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
Mark is like the king of cardigans. I think he's weaing a differnt one in each scene. *g*
Mar. 11th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
I could vote!!!

For some reason that makes me very happy. I think I need a life or something like that.

You picked nice caps.

And thanks for posting the articles.
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Yay! Voting!
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Caps (those three plus the ice-cream licking gif are the perfect illustration), quotes, articles. And fanfic!

Thank you for having me re-watch it to better enjoy your post!

I loved the girl who played Jade's sister, and was surprised to find that, while this is her only movie, her STARmeter went up 258% since last week? IMDB is a strange world...
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
Yay! For rewatching! I really love this movie. A LOT. *g* I only wish there were more fanfic.

The STARmeter doesn't really mean that much. IIRC it compares how often a name was searched one week to the previous week.
Sep. 23rd, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Great post! Now I want to rewatch.
Maark &hearts
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