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Martin Scorsese Masterclass in Cannes

Best Trailers for June 2020

Cameron Lui

Cameron is a correspondent from Cannes and other festivals around the world. He is our 2019 Sundance correspondent. You can follow his Sundance coverage on Twitter @sundanceblogger.


"The Farewell" - Review from Sundance

As a Chinese-American filmmaker myself, there is a special place in my heart for Chinese-American film. The consistently negative depictions of Asians in American film-culture instilled a sense of shame in me that translated to hiding the fact that I was Asian from many people up until early adulthood. Being mixed, that was generally not too difficult and it was an easier way to navigate life. The only way to truly fix this problem is by people like Lulu Wang succeeding. She absolutely does so with her film The Farewell. The film was rewarded handily by inking a multi-million dollar distribution deal with A24. Money talks and the money says they did well.

Played by Awkwafina, the film follows Billi, a tortured soul or in other words a writer, whose American perspective clashes with the traditional norms of her family back in China. The opening title card generates a sense of irony from the jump as it tells the audience that “this film is based on an actual lie.” Billi, against the wishes of her family, spends her last dime to travel back to China for her cousin’s impromptu wedding, meant to reunite the family one last time before her Grandmother passes of stage 4 cancer. In China, they have a tradition where when a family member is terminally ill, it is the responsibility of the family to carry the emotional burden by hiding from them their inevitable death. This is something that is painfully difficult for Billi to get behind. Her Grandmother calls her almost every day, they are incredibly close, and for Billi all she wants is to grieve with her loved one in the only way that makes sense to her culturally as an American.

The film really is pretty simple. It plays off the irony that we know the Grandma is dying while she excitedly prepares a grand wedding. The irony is painful in every scene, with every line we feel the weight of the situation as it drags your emotions to an uncomfortable place. The characters are all endearing and unique, carrying with them different forms of trauma. It plays off the cultural differences between America and China through a family that has been distanced by their regional dispositions. Each character has their own feelings about the process of grief and with that comes varying forms of cognitive dissonance.

Awkwafina delivers yet another powerful performance. This time, much different than her last film Crazy Rich Asians. Rather than electrifying the audience with her unpredictable anecdotes and crowd-pleasing energy, she brings a hyper-realistic melancholy to the table that fills the room with the bitter truth. She truly proves that she is a star in the making.

This film will hopefully succeed in the box office. I really hope that it can capture the hearts of the average moviegoer because it dives deep into both Chinese and Chinese-American culture in a way that can give Americans a lesson in what it is like culturally to be an immigrant in America. With understanding comes sympathy and with sympathy comes acceptance. This film has the potential to deliver just that.