Soft weeping and sniffling could be heard throughout A&O Productions' free screening of Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, which aired on Nov. 15 and 16. The film was originally released through A24 in July.
The Farewell stars Nora Lum, also known as Awkwafina, who is famous for her supporting comedic roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8. Awkwafina takes a more solemn leading role in The Farewell as a New Yorker named Billi who grapples with her Chinese family’s choice of keeping her grandmother from knowing about her terminal cancer diagnosis. The family members all meet in Changchun to set up a fake wedding as an excuse to say their last goodbyes to the beloved matriarch of the family.
“I’ve had relatives pass away to cancer,” Medill freshman Elbert Xie said. “This was something that really made me think back to my own experiences and made me appreciate them more.”
McCormick senior Andy Cai, who is the head of films for A&O, was influenced by a conversation with his sister after watching the movie over the summer and decided that A&O definitely had to screen it.
“There hadn’t been a movie like that where the protagonist and the family really resonated so much with her,” Cai said. “Just the fact that it had such an impact on me and seeing how well it has done with awards, we had to show this to people.”
According to Cai, Asians and Asian Americans can definitely relate more to the content of the film more than other demographics, considering that The Farewell’s entire cast is Asian and the plot is wholly centered around a Chinese family.
“For them, I want them to feel like they belong,” Cai said. “For other audiences, I want them to see a glimpse into the Asian-American experience, because it touches on the balance for Asian Americans with Chinese culture in particular.”
Medill sophomore Maggie Galloway thought that the film was “beautifully shot,” and she said she gained a better understanding of Chinese culture from watching the indie film, especially about the custom of not telling dying relatives of their diagnosis.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that takes place in modern-day China,” Galloway said. “Most movies that I’ve seen take place in China have usually been in Beijing or Shanghai, so it was interesting to see a city I’ve never heard about before.”
Weinberg freshman Eddie Woo admired the way that the cast and crew put so much care in the purposeful angle and details of The Farewell. He specifically enjoyed the cinematography, which he said gave “Wes Anderson vibes”
“I really like how it wasn’t like a Western film; it had an Eastern perspective, which doesn’t come out in Hollywood these days,” Woo said.
Asian representation in Hollywood has slowly been on the rise with blockbuster films like Crazy Rich Asians and the upcoming MCU Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The Farewell makes an impactful contribution to this lineup.
“I do appreciate the heightened Asian and Asian American representation in Hollywood,” Medill sophomore Mary Yang said. “I know that this wasn’t that big of a film, but it’s cool to see the industry making small steps.”