Double Happiness

Director: Mina Shum

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Multiculturalism has been a concept in modern life for quite a while, but the reality of its day-to-day existence is rarely explored with the insight and humor of Double Happiness. In this case, it’s the Li family: Canadian yet Chinese, modern but traditional, coping with the new world by holding fast to the old.

Jade, the “good ” Chinese daughter, must balance old and new as she heroically struggles into adulthood. This in itself is an arduous task without being compounded by a prearranged marriage, the threat of having to forsake an acting career, and the ultimate complication, a budding relationship with Mark, a white university student. Following the path of her already-disowned brother, Jade knows her problems are serious. She must keep her angst in check or the family will explode. Jade is not a victim, however. The demon she battles is the knowledge that because her worlds are colliding, she will soon be forced to choose between them.

In her first feature, Mina Shum reveals a style and elegance in storytelling that coax you to become involved in the action of the film rather then remaining passive. She has allowed no villains in her story. Instead she lets us see the eccentricities of this family, and we feel each insecurity and pain. Double Happiness possesses a terrific ensemble cast, including Sarah Oh, who plays Jade with a dazzle. She is cheeky, irreverent, and daring. There seems to be a direct link in Double Happiness between director, actress, and character that signals that a universal truth is being revealed: Jade is not the first and certainly not the last to suffer the pain and confusion of growing up in the nineties.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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