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Date TimeSeptember 23, 2019
VoiceA film depicting a young Chinese-American woman’s experience highlights differences between the two countries – but may also signal hope for the future
Is The Farewell the olive branch the US-China culture war needs?
Similar to the hype surrounding the release last year of Crazy Rich Asians, the first Hollywood romcom to feature an all-Asian cast, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, made for a far more modest $3m, has also generated a great wave of goodwill since its premiere at Sundance in January. The Farewell is a welcome addition to a new canon that depicts the contemporary Asian-American experience. As a mixed-race woman who was not born or raised in her parents’ home country/culture, I found the depiction of the complex east-west family dynamics highly resonant, particularly around the themes of belonging and not belonging. I also shed quite a few tears in the process.
The Farewell reaches cinemas as the US-China trade war continues to send shockwaves through the global economy; it is far more political than I could have imagined. Starring Crazy Rich Asians alum Awkwafina as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who discovers her grandmother, or nai nai in Mandarin, has terminal lung cancer and has only a few months left to live. However, her family have wrongly – in Billi’s opinion – withheld the truth from her grandmother: a common practice in China, as well as in Japan and Singapore. In an attempt to reconcile their so-called “emotional burden”, the family travel to Nai Nai’s home in Changchun, the capital of north-east Jilin province, to stage a fake wedding between her cousin and his Japanese girlfriend so that the entire extended family can bid Nai-Nai a final farewell.

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