From the Archives: A Fake Wedding for "The Farewell"
A poignant yet comedic, semi-autobiographical tale by director Lulu Wang, The Farewell tells the story of a Chinese American family grappling with how to confront their grandmother’s terminal cancer diagnosis. The film centers on Billi (Awkwafina), a headstrong aspiring writer, who struggles with her relatives’ decision to keep Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) in the dark about her illness, instead staging an impromptu wedding to bring everyone together one last time in their ancestral homeland. Eloquently exploring the intricacies of family politics and the diaspora experience, The Farewell charmed viewers at the New York premiere in July 2019.
As guests polished off their drinks following the showing at Metrograph Pictures on the Lower East Side, a lion dance descended from the second floor into the lobby, beckoning the crowd across Canal Street and down East Broadway to 88 Palace, a sprawling dim sum parlor inside a Chinatown mini-mall tucked under the Manhattan Bridge. There, guests were met with the trappings of a traditional wedding banquet: The room was awash in red and gold, with tables laden with colorful Chinese snacks and candies amidst opulent bouquets of roses and baby’s breath and hong bao, red envelopes used to gift cash on holidays and special occasions. Roving carts proffered bites of dim sum including fried shrimp balls, steamed pork buns, beef meatballs with tofu skins, and four kinds of dumplings, plus Peking duck buns carved and stuffed to order. Between dancing and dim sum, guests also took pictures in a heart-shaped photo booth directly inspired by the wedding shoot in the film.
A couple hours into DJ Nancy Whang’s bumping set - a festive playlist spanning hip hop, pop, and disco - Mission Chinese chef Danny Bowien invited Lulu Wang and actress Hong Lu, to cut the cake. Grinning ear to ear behind oversized red shades, Lu - the director's ebullient great aunt, who also plays the protagonist's great aunt - sliced and served a three-tiered wedding cake, bedecked with the same florals as the tables, as well as fondant cherry blossoms and the Chinese character for happiness. In keeping with the theme of abundance, guests were also treated to traditional dim sum sweets, including egg tarts, fried sesame balls, and steamed custard buns.