How ‘The Farewell’ Makes Exercise Fun and Bittersweet | Anatomy of a Scene

I’m Lulu Wang, and I’m
the writer and director of ‘The Farewell.’ “Ha!” This is a scene between Billi
and Nai Nai, her grandma. It’s the morning after
Billi has arrived in China, and Nai Nai is exercising. It’s played by Nora Lum, aka
Awkwafina, and Zhao Shuzhen as Nai Nai. “Ha!” This was the first
scene that we shot on the first
day of production. And I was kind of
nervous about it, because I wasn’t sure of the
chemistry between the two actors. And the entire
scene is shot in one take with a static camera. And we just let the actors
move freely around the frame. But I knew that I wasn’t going
to be able to edit the scene. So Anna Franquesa
Solano is my DP, and we talked a lot
about this scene, because it’s the first
scene where Billi and Nai Nai are together alone. And we wanted it to be a
static shot because we wanted the audience to feel
the natural chemistry between the two actors– “Ha! Ha!” –without the camera
getting in the way. So we put markers
down on the floor, eventually, because
at first, we gave the actors
a lot of freedom, and Nora would
roam off camera. And she would just be off
camera the whole time. So this exercise is something
that my own grandmother did. And it was always
kind of funny to me, but she took it
very seriously. And I had a hard
time, actually, getting Zhao
Shuzhen, who plays Nai Nai, to do the exercise, because
it’s not something that she does in her real life. And it’s actually
quite difficult. It takes a lot of core
strength to really get the loudness of that ‘ha.’ So it took a lot of practice,
and she was pretty winded by the end of it.

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  1. Why would a Chinese director have Awkwafina, a Korean, play a Chinese girl? Perpetuating the stereotype that all Asians look alike and all Asian cultures are interchangeable. It's not like there was a shortage of Chinese American actresses to fill that role.

  2. I genuinely disliked this movie. It’s all based on a lie for the right reasons but regardless the lying bothered me. Too much pretense for me.

  3. Thanks for sharing on youtube. I don't have the money to sub to NYT but I respect and love your newspaper, crossword and publishing.

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