'The Farewell' Director Lulu Wang Surprises Lone Moviegoer With Q&A During Screening

Writer and director Lulu Wang made a surprise visit to a Monday night screening of her latest movie, The Farewell, at New York City's famed Angelika Film Center.

The filmmaker was taking a friend to see her work when she decided to offer an impromptu question-and-answer session for the only member in the audience who was not a part of her group. Before the opening credits rolled, Wang asked for the name of the solo moviegoer and told him that the project was a "personal story" for her. She later shared the chance event from her Twitter account.

I took my best friend to the Angelika last night to see @thefarewell as real audience members in a theater where we’ve seen countless films together over the years. 10:15 showing on a Monday night. There was one other audience member there and I surprised him with a Q&A 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/SkNJOBk1Nh

— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) October 15, 2019

The Farewell—a full-length feature set in Chinahit select theaters in July following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The movie unfolds as young Chinese-American woman Billi (portrayed by Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina) and her family come to terms with the announcement that their matriarch, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), has stage 4 lung cancer. Doctors have given Nai Nai three months to live—something her family keeps from her.

For Wang, whose own grandmother died after battling cancer, the story was very real. "It was difficult to go back and know that I was saying goodbye to her, not be able to tell her that I was saying goodbye," she told People magazine in August.

THE FAREWELL started as a story in my head, and it was called, “WHAT THE FUCK I CAN’T BELIEVE MY FAMILY WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WHO CAN I TALK TO IS THIS INSANE OR IS IT JUST ME.” Now it’s showing in movie theaters across North America and I guess the new title works better.

— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) August 3, 2019

Despite the low attendance on Monday night, the family drama's mid-year release surpassed Avengers: Endgame for the year's biggest per-theater average, as reported by Indie Wire. The film was also a critical success, scoring 99 percent on rating site Rotten Tomatoes and with one Washington Post reviewer calling it a "delightful, insightful homage to the facades and pretenses nearly everyone adopts in the name of compassion."

Indie Wire also noted Wang's uphill battle in getting the project off the ground, writing: "There were many disheartening encounters with American financiers as she pitched. Many suggested that Wang introduce a prominent white character into the narrative, and punch up the nuanced drama to turn it into a broad comedy."

She refused.

"I'm a filmmaker, so immediately I started to think that this could be a great story for a film when it happened to me in real life," Wang said in an interview with Vox. "But working in Hollywood has trained me to always think, 'All right, what would I need to change in order to sell it, to make [producers] actually want to tell the story?'"

She continued: "I set out to tell a story about a granddaughter, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a father—you know, a family. I wasn't setting out to make an 'Asian movie' any more than a white male director sets out to make a 'white movie.' They're just telling their own family story, their own perspective."

Lulu Wang
Lulu Wang attends the "The Farewell" photo call during the 15th Zurich Film Festival at Kino Corso on October 02, 2019 in Zurich, Switzerland. Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images for ZFF