Julia Kwan’s Everything Will Be captures change in Chinatown

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      A documentary by Julia Kwan. In English and Cantonese with English subtitles. Rating unavailable.

      Well, here’s a Rorschach test of a movie. While local filmmaker Julia Kwan’s first nonfiction feature takes a very elegant approach to its own assumed neutrality—you can simply soak yourself in Patrick McLaughlin’s vivid and deeply textured cinematography, if you want—it’ll still be pretty tough for some Vancouverites to walk away from Everything Will Be without beating their chests about one thing or another.

      Vancouver’s Chinatown is a frontline in the battle over this city’s future. Kwan’s justly celebrated doc very gently reminds us that its past is imperilled, as her camera wanders in and out of the fragrant markets and restaurants that still maintain the area’s connection to the traditional Chinese community, or introduces us to some of the ancient characters who have lived and worked there for their entire lives. Some of the most potent sequences here unspool inside the May Wah Hotel on East Pender Street, a hive of singing, mahjong, and old-world simplicity that the filmmaker described to the Straight as something “out of a Wong Kar-Wai movie”.

      If nothing else, Everything Will Be should remind us that Chinatown, Strathcona, and the Downtown Eastside remain by far the most picturesque parts of a city that seems to exhibit an almost pathological contempt for its own history. As such, you can’t help but notice that Kwan juxtaposes one of the hotel’s non-Chinese occupants—a poet who laments that the area is being turned into a “museum”—with developer Bob Rennie, whose palpable excitement and hipster-capitalist vision of the community is either infectious or horrifying, depending on your own compass.

      The question, I suppose, is this: do you want Tribeca, Williamsburg, or better yet, just plain and beautiful old Chinatown?

      Follow Adrian Mack on Twitter at @adrianmacked.