How ‘The Farewell’ Filmmaker Lulu Wang Negotiated Two Worlds and Stayed Motivated

With “The Farewell,” director Lulu Wang wanted to show the joy rather than the struggle of being Asian American.
When she first started pitching the movies, Wang says she was constantly questioned whether she wanted to make an “American film” or a “Chinese film.”
“I was like I didn’t know I had to choose and it’s very confrontational because it’s like asking me, ‘Are you American or are you Chinese?’” she said.
Wang was told that her idea to ask an all-Asian cast who oscillated between speaking English and Chinese wouldn’t resonate with American audiences—but was also told by Chinese producers that the film’s Asian-American main character wouldn’t be relatable to the Chinese market.
Since the movie was based off of her own life, Wang’s negotiating between American and Chinese cultures was deeply personal. But it was that duality that ultimately led to “The Farewell’s” success.
“So many more people are coming up to me saying ‘My family did this too.’ And I always thought that it was just my family,” she said.
The movie was Wang’s second, and she said she was considered walking away from the industry altogether for not letting her tell the stories she wanted. But she strived to make it as authentic to her truth as possible, so she could be sure that, if it failed, it wasn’t because she conformed to the industry’s standards.
“Don’t compromise,” she said. “I discovered that it was empowering for me to so no. to say, I know that perhaps it is a world of scarcity for me. But I’m going to choose not to believe that it’s scarcity. I’m going to choose to believe in abundance.  

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