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Awkwafina Wants ‘The Farewell’ to Break Boundaries of Cultural Differences

Family dysfunction is universal despite cultural differences. That’s what writer and director Lulu Wang wants audiences to take away from her film “The Farewell” starring Awkwafina.

“This movie will teach us universality out of specificity. There’s something that we can all kind of relate to across cultures. There’s something we still have to learn about different cultures,” said Awkwafina on the red carpet of the film’s New York premiere.

During the opening night of BAMcinemaFest, fans, stars, and filmmakers gathered at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn to watch a screening of Wang’s dramedy. Before the film, BAM’s associate VP of Cinema Gina Duncan gave an introduction, praising Wang’s work and the success of “The Farewell” at Sundance Film Festival.

“’The Farewell’ brought the house down at its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival back in January where the entire CinemaFest’s selections committee had the pleasure of seeing it. We knew immediately that this had the be the film to open the festival,” said Duncan.

“The Farewell” chronicles an Asian-American family grappling with the knowledge that their matriarch, Nai Nai, has been struck with stage four lung cancer and only has months to live. Billi (played by Awkwafina) travels with her parents to China to be with the rest of her family as they celebrate a wedding and spend time with their grandmother. The catch: the family can’t tell Nai Nai that she has cancer. They all choose to carry the heavy burden of the illness themselves to keep the grandmother in blissful ignorance.

The film is based on Wang’s own familial story, and she said that she wants “The Farewell” to break the boundaries of cultural differences, leading to more people like her sharing their stories onscreen.

“I hope it’s part of a bigger conversation about how we can tell stories that actually represent the population in America and the experiences of all of the different people who come from all different walks of life,” Wang said on the red carpet. “I just know that I want to see specificity in stories, whatever that means, and that we can be more open to specific stories rather than try to always tell the same stories over and over again.”

After the screening, attendees dined and drank cocktails at an after party just around the corner at BAM Fisher. The celebration was complete with a DJ, disco ball, and dance floor where songs like Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” and The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” played over the loudspeaker.

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