Revisiting filmmaker Lulu Wang on making the very personal ‘The Farewell’

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Lulu Wang’s movie “The Farewell,” is, as advertised on the screen before the story even begins, “Based on an actual lie.” That lie is about what happened in real life when Wang’s Chinese grandmother was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer and given only a few months to live. 

In “The Farewell,” Awkwafina plays Billi, a version of Wang, who’s shocked to learn her parents--and other extended family in China--have no intention of telling her grandmother about the bleak diagnosis. 

The family heads to China using a hastily planned, rather comedic wedding for Billi’s cousin as a reason for the visit.  For the grandmother, Nai Nai, it will be a celebration, but for everyone else, it will be a chance to say goodbye. 

This week we’re revisiting our conversation with Wang. She tells us about the circuitous route to making “The Farewell”--which went from public radio to Sundance success to indie hit to awards contender. The American Film Institute included “The Farewell” in its list of 10 outstanding films of 2019. 




Kim Masters


Kaitlin Parker