Asian Heritage Month
May is Asian Heritage Month, celebrating the contributions of Asian-Canadians to the growth and prosperity of Canada. This year, it’s more important than ever to highlight the stories of Asian-Canadians in your classroom, and these films are sure to spark an engaging discussion.
BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD (105 min)
2002. Director & Writer: Deepa Mehta.
Set in Toronto and its wealthier suburbs, Bollywood/Hollywood follows Rahul, a rich South Asian Canadian dot-com entrepreneur, is pressured by his mother and grandmother to find a nice Hindu girl to accompany him to the elaborate wedding ceremony of his sister. As a joking way of accommodating them, he hires Sue, a beautiful escort girl, to pretend to be his fiancée. Naturally, the two fall in love, and just as naturally, complications ensue.
BREAKAWAY (101 min)
2011. Director: Robert Lieberman. Writers: Noel S. Baker, Jeffrey Alan Schechter, Matt Simmons, Vinay Virmani.
Rajveer Singh is struggling to balance the wishes of his traditional Sikh family and his own true passion for hockey. Raj and his friends play only for fun, held back by the prejudice and mockery of other teams as their turban-clad crew steps onto the ice. Enter Coach Dan Winters, and soon the Speedy Singhs are competing in a real tournament, while Raj is falling in love with the coach’s beautiful sister, Melissa.
THE BREADWINNER (94 min)
2017. Director: Nora Twomey. Writers: Anita Doron, Deborah Ellis.
Parvana is an 11-year-old girl growing up under Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy in order to be able to get a job and help to support her family. Working alongside her friend Shauzia, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom and danger. With courage and imagination, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents, as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family.
DOUBLE HAPPINESS (87 min)
1995. Director & Writer: Mina Shum.
Jade Li, a vivacious Chinese Canadian, wants to become an actress without upsetting her extremely traditional parents. It’s a balancing act that Jade is finding difficult to achieve. Speaking in English, wearing Western clothes and going out with non-Asian guys, Jade leads a secret life when she leaves her stuffy but warm domestic scene each day. Things come to a head when Mark, a white Canadian graduate student, insists on turning their casual fling into something more meaningful. It’s a relationship that Jade’s parents would hate. What should she do?
DR. CABBIE (101 min)
2014. Director: Jean-François Pouliot. Writers: Vinay Virmani, Adrianne Palicki, Kunal Nayyar.
When Deepak, a young Indian doctor, immigrates to Canada in hopes of starting a better life, he is deeply disheartened to learn that his training does not qualify him to practise in Canada. With his new friend Tony, he starts work as a taxi driver, but fate intervenes in the form of a very pregnant passenger who urgently needs medical attention. Before long, Deepak has turned his cab into a doctor’s office. As his “practice” gets busier and romance with his first patient begins to blossom, it becomes clear that he is on a collision course with the medical establishment, the police and an ambitious politician who also happens to be the father of the baby he delivered.
IRON ROAD (99 min)
2009. Director: David Wu. Writers: Barry Pearson, Raymond Storey.
A tale of forbidden love set against the building of the Canadian railway in the 1880s, Iron Road tells the story of a Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man and persuades the son of a railroad tycoon to hire her onto the explosives crew. Soon, though, she finds herself falling in love with him, and as the physical terrain becomes more dangerous, so does the landscape of the heart.
Beautifully shot and featuring screen legend Peter O’Toole, Iron Road revisits an important and controversial time in Canadian history.
MEDITATION PARK (94 min)
2017. Director & Writer: Mina Shum.
Maria, the matriarch of a Chinese-Canadian family, reveres her workaholic husband Bing for the sacrifices he has made for their family, and worries about her similarly overworked daughter.
When Maria begins to suspect that Bing is having an affair, she is forced to confront the harsh reality that her world may not be what it seemed. Wrestling with what to do, Maria embarks on a journey of self-discovery and befriends a group of local eccentrics and a grumpy neighbour, who make her realize that everyone’s lives are more complicated than she has been led to believe.
MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN (146 min)
2012. Director & Writer: Deepa Mehta. Writer: Salman Rushdie (based on his novel).
Two children are born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment that India claimed its independence from Great Britain — a coincidence that has profound consequences on their lives. Switched at birth in the hospital, the boys — one from a wealthy family, the other belonging to a poor single father — must live out each other’s intended fates, their lives strangely intertwined and linked to their country’s journey through the tumultuous 20th century.
WATER (114 min)
2015. Director & Writer: Deepa Mehta.
Set in India during the rise of Mahatma Gandhi, Water recounts the story of Chuyia, a child bride. When her husband dies suddenly, Chuyia is forced to live in an ashram for Hindu widows, essentially cut off from society. Fortunately, she finds friends in the beautiful Kilyani and in the forward-thinking Narayan. With their help, Chuyia attempts to escape the confines of her existence.
WINDOW HORSES (88 min)
2016. Director & Writer: Ann Marie Fleming.
This extraordinary animated feature tells the tale of Rosie, a young Canadian poet of Chinese and Persian descent. Rosie lives in Vancouver with her Chinese grandparents and dreams of travelling and seeing the world. When she receives an invitation to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran, Rosie embarks on a journey that unravels a personal mystery and brings her closer to her Persian roots.
THE WORLD BEFORE HER (90 min)
2012. Director & Writer: Nisha Pahuja.
Ruhi Singh is on her way to Bombay to participate in an intense beauty boot camp as a contestant in the Miss India pageant, the country’s ultimate glamour event. Meanwhile, just a few hours away, Prachi Trivedi works at a very different kind of camp – one run by a militant Hindu nationalist group, where young girls train to combat Western influences. Moving between the two camps, this lively and provocative documentary paints a dramatic story of the obstacles each woman faces, revealing the intimate stories of young women determined to make a difference in their society.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE PINES (8 min)
2020. Director: Anne Koizumi.
Growing up, Anne Koizumi was embarrassed of having her father work at her school. Years later, she sees their relationship in a new light.
FROM FAR AWAY (6 min)
2000. Directors: Shira Avni, Serene El-haj Daoud.
A young girl adjusting to life in Canada is scared by her new school’s Halloween event, but soon recovers when she gains acceptance from her peers.
THE GIRL WHO HATED BOOKS (7 min)
2006. Director: Jo Meuris.
Meena’s parents love books so much that her house is overwhelmed with piles of them. She’s never shared their love of reading, until an adventure through the world of books changes her life.