This summer marked a bustle of activity for Canada’s largest Chinatown. From mahjong socials to food pop-ups, this historic neighbourhood saw a flurry of Chinatown Summer Events thanks to an exciting roundtable cross-collaboration between various groups including the City of Vancouver, the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown (YCC), Chinatown Today, Hua Foundation, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and of course – the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF).
In particular, the Chinatown Movie Night & Culture Fair, co-produced by Chinatown Today and VAFF with support from programming partner YCC and venue sponsor Chinese Cultural Centre, with support from the City of Vancouver, was the one of the most ambitious events undertaken in the Chinatown Summer Events series. It was a vision to re-activate the public space of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen courtyard with a night of activities that were culturally relevant, particularly to intergenerational and multicultural communities and to provide a proof of concept that there was enough local interest to draw large crowds with this type of free outdoor celebration.
On September 1, 2018, that vision was realized.
Throughout the evening, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Courtyard was filled with an estimated 500 attendees throughout the evening from their early 20s to late 40s, as well as many local seniors, all eager to celebrate in the culture that is still very much present in today’s Chinatown. As attendees approached the event, they were greeted with “hot and noisy” mahjong tables courtesy of the YCC. But if challenging the experienced popos at mahjong was too intimidating, guests could also check out the adjacent beginner-friendly mahjong table or the ping pong table right across for guests to play with their friends.
Before officially starting the various performances, introductory speeches were made by Lynne Lee, VAFF Festival Director, and Theo Wong, Chinatown Today writer and volunteer. MP Jenny Kwan of Vancouver East – Mount Pleasant also came by to give her warmest greetings and acknowledgements.
And to add a real banging kick-off to the event, guests were treated to spectacular Chinese lion dance performances by the Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu Club & Chau Luen Athletic Club! Without breaking tradition, the twin lions threw lettuce into the crowds for good luck.
Traditional Chinese music performed by the Toisan Benevolent Association filled the air while guests trickled in and perused through the various food stalls and merchandise vendors.
At one stall, you could get your fix of pork belly buns, while at another you could try some interesting “Asian-flavoured” popcorn. The food stalls of Kam Wai Dim Sum, Happy Woman Kitchen, Hua Foundation‘s Asian-flavoured Popcorn, and Treasure Green Tea were popular destinations throughout the evening, with long lines forming at all four vendors.
Meanwhile the merchants of Chinese Art Crafts, explorASIAN/Art in Chinatown, Animating Cultures, and Zodiac Gifts and Souvenirs offered a bazaar of interesting keepsakes to purchase. The event was also graced with a special appearance by the roving magic of Master Magician Rod Chow!
As the evening turned into night, attendees enjoyed hearing a unique blend of rock and traditional Chinese music together from the Son of James, a local independent Canadian band, who performed from the lofty heights of the CCC second floor balcony. After that, guests were invited to reverse their chairs towards the movie screen and Vancouver Chinese Choir Association came on stage, delivering a number of songs, including one called “Vancouver, we love you”. At a particularly climactic unplanned moment, a blue heron took flight from the adjacent Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park and flew over the choir, accentuating the particularly magical atmosphere of the evening.
The beautiful clear night turned to darkness, except for the glowing pink, blue, green, and red lanterns around the courtyard, courtesy of local merchant Chinese Art Crafts and the sparkling warm lights of the food and exhibitor tents. Guests turned their attention to the screen that was now showing Meditation Park, a 2017 Canadian film about a 60-year-old grandmother named Maria, played by Cheng Pei Pei, who discovers her husband’s affair after finding an orange thong in his pants pocket. The film, directed by Mina Shum, opened for the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2017 and was also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. And at the Chinatown Movie Night & Culture Fair, guests had the exciting opportunity to enjoy this film outdoors among 200 other attendees not only in the three spoken languages of the film (English, Cantonese, and Mandarin), and with specially translated traditional Chinese subtitles accessible to Chinatown’s seniors.
Once the screening finished, the actresses from Meditation Park, Sharmaine Yeoh and Lillian Lim who respectively played Su and Anita, the two of the “Parking Lady” friends of the film’s protagonist, came on stage to talk about their admiration for the film.
“I just thought it was such a wonderful movie for older women – that we’re still strong!” says Lilliam Lim.
Finally, the successful Chinatown Movie Night & Culture Fair officially came to an end with closing remarks by Lynne Lee and Theo Wong. The event was made possible by the collaboration, participation, and support of numerous community members, Chinatown groups, tireless volunteers, sponsors, vendors, merchants, and attendees, to whom the organizers are deeply grateful.
We would like to say thank you to the following partnerships, sponsors, performers, vendors and guests for their support in making this event possible:
- Chinatown Today 今日唐人街
- Hua Foundation
- Chinatown Summer Events 唐人街夏日活動, special thanks Melody Ma
- Programming Partner Youth Collaborative for Chinatown, special thanks to June Chow’s tireless support
- Venue Sponsor Chinese Cultural Centre 大溫哥華中華文化中心 , special thanks to Bill Kwok
- Outdoor screening sponsor, Fresh Air Cinema
- Jenny Kwan (關慧貞), Member of Parliament, Vancouver East – Mount Pleasant
- Made possible by a grant from the City of Vancouver, special acknowledgement to Helen Ma of the Downtown East Side Neighbourhoods group
- Elwin Xie for sound and lighting tech support
- Kam Wai Dim Sum 金威南北點心
- Happy Woman Kitchen 念慈廚房
- Hua Foundation’s Asian Flavoured Popcorn
- Treasure Green Tea
- Zodiac Gifts and Souvenirs
- Chinese Art Crafts 中华工艺品 / 中華工藝品
- ExplorASIAN / Art in Chinatown
- Animating Cultures
- Portable Electric for logistical, electrical, and lighting support
Check out more of the event pictures below!
Photography by Chantelle Lui, with additional photos by Vincent Wong.
Chinatown Movie Night & Culture Fair | 唐人街電影夜和文化市集 right now!
Posted by Vincent WM Wong on Saturday, September 1, 2018
Meditation Park now starting at Chinatown Movie Night & Culture Fair | 唐人街電影夜和文化市集!
Posted by Vincent WM Wong on Saturday, September 1, 2018