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An uplifting tale about breaking free from restraint

June 08,2018
Maria, a first-generation immigrant to Canada from Hong Kong, has been a dutiful housewife, dedicating herself to her husband Bing and two children. Though she is satisfied with being a stay-at-home mom who depends on her husband’s income, Maria has made an effort to make sure her children, especially her daughter Ava, do not grow up to live like she does.

Partly inspired by her relationship with her mother, director Mina Shum was inspired to make “Meditation Park” after finding her mother’s ambivalence “absurd.”

“I’ve always wanted to make a film about my mother’s generation and my generation, and the difference [between the two],” said Shum on Wednesday at an event held during the 20th Seoul International Women’s Film Festival that wrapped Thursday. “My mother taught us all about feminism. We needed to be strong and educated, but she practiced none of those things.”

The movie, which opened the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, tells the tale of a 60-something Maria, played by Cheng Pei Pei, living in Vancouver. The film opens by showing a happy family gathered around a table to celebrate Bing’s birthday.

But things actually start taking place after Maria discovers an orange thong inside the pocket of her husband’s pants. Even after finding out that her husband is having an affair, however, Maria pretends to not notice it.

She tries to be more independent by earning money and learning how to ride a bike, but all that effort is really to find out whom Bing is having an affair with.

Eventually, Maria truly learns to be independent from her husband and begins to make decisions unaffected by her husband after Bing’s love interest breaks up with him, and Bing, in turn, loses his nice and sweet attitude towards Maria.

In the film, a connection with her neighbors functions as a crucial factor in allowing Maria to become more independent from her husband.

“Maria finds community, which is the most important thing,” the filmmaker said.

“I wanted to make an uplifting film about being powerless,” Shum said. “In the end, she [realizes that] she has more power than she knows. I think we all have more power than we think.”

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]