Lulu Wang (filmmaker)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lulu Wang
Wang in 2015
Born (1983-02-25) February 25, 1983 (age 40)
Beijing, China
EducationNew World School of the Arts
Alma materBoston College
Years active2005–present
PartnerBarry Jenkins (2018–present)

Lulu Wang[1] (Chinese: 王子逸; pinyin: Wáng Zǐyì;[2] born February 25, 1983) is a Chinese-born American filmmaker. She is best known for writing and directing the comedy-drama films Posthumous (2014) and The Farewell (2019). For the latter, she received the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film and the film was named one of the top ten films of 2019 by the American Film Institute. Wang has also written, produced, and directed several short films, documentaries, and music videos.

Early life and education[edit]

Wang was born in Beijing. Her father Haiyan Wang was a Chinese diplomat to the USSR[3] and her mother Jian Yu is a former cultural critic and editor at the Beijing Literary Gazette.[3] She has a younger brother, Anthony.[4] Wang spent her early years in Beijing with her parents and briefly lived with her paternal grandmother for a year in Changchun, Jilin, before emigrating to Miami at age 6 because her father was pursuing a PhD at the University of Miami.[5]

She is a classically trained pianist, starting lessons at age four and attending the New World School of the Arts.[6][7] Her parents encouraged her to become a professional pianist; her mother took her to a local church in Miami every day to practice before they were able to buy a piano for her.[8] Wang ultimately decided against a career in music when she was at college.[8]

Wang studied music and literature at Boston College from 2001 and graduated in 2005 with a double major in literature and music.[9] Wang says she was inspired to become a filmmaker after watching Steven Shainberg's 2002 film Secretary in her senior year.[10] She then took two film production courses and made several short films while still at college.[11] After learning the art of film and producing a few short student films and documentaries, Wang moved to Hollywood in 2007 to fully pursue her love for writing.


2005–2007: Beginnings[edit]

Filmmaking found itself early in Wang's career, but instead of movie theaters her content was exhibited in courtrooms. Shown for mediation and court cases, she created short “day in the life” videos for legal firms for her startup business, capturing injured victims’ daily struggles in mundane activities. She interviewed many clients and their families in an attempt to show the extent of their injuries.[12]

In 2005, while still a student, Wang received the Best Beginning Film Award at the Boston College Baldwin Awards for Storyteller, which she made together with fellow Boston College student Tony Hale.[11][13] They went on to win the Baldwin Award for Best Picture for the short film Pisces[14] at the Boston College Baldwin Film Festival the following year.[15] Wang and Hale also collaborated on the 2006 documentary short, Fishing the Gulf, on over-fishing in Panama.[11][16] Her next project was the 2007 short film Can-Can,[17] based on a short story by Arturo Vivante about marriage and infidelity.[11]

2008–2015: Posthumous and breakthrough[edit]

In 2008, shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Wang interned for a producer alongside Bernadette Bürgi. After a trip to IKEA, the two decided to make a film together due to their mutual affection for storytelling and romantic comedies.[18] Wang and Bürgi set up their own production company Flying Box Productions;[19] Wang directed multiple web shorts and music videos and, in 2014, her first feature film, Posthumous.[20] Set in Berlin, Germany, Posthumous is an American-German co-production starring Brit Marling and Jack Huston.[21] Wang was so dedicated to having Huston in the film, she wrote a heartfelt letter to him, which he later admitted was the reason he signed on to the first-time writer/director's project. The film debuted at the Zurich Film Festival on 4 October 2014,[22] played in the U.S. at the Miami International Film Festival,[23] and has been released worldwide.

In 2014, Wang was awarded the Chaz and Roger Ebert Directing Fellowship at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. The same year, she was chosen as a Film Independent Project Involve Directing Fellow.[24][25] Wang's 2015 short film Touch premiered at the Palm Springs International ShortFest.[26] Touch was an NBCU Short Film Festival finalist,[27] was selected by the American Cinematheque for its Annual Focus on Female Directors,[28] and won Best Drama at the Asians on Film Festival.[29]

2016–present: The Farewell and acclaim[edit]

In May 2016, Wang wrote and narrated a story, "What You Don't Know", for the radio program This American Life.[30] Later that year, development began on a feature film based on the story with producer Chris Weitz, who had heard it on the radio.[8][18][31] In 2017, Wang was chosen to participate in Sundance Institute’s FilmTwo Initiative, which provides guidance for filmmakers creating their second feature films.[24][32]

In January 2019, Wang's second feature film, The Farewell, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was picked up for worldwide distribution by A24.[33] The film follows struggling New York City artist Billi (played by Awkwafina in her first dramatic role), who travels to China for a family reunion to visit her dying grandmother. The family has decided to keep the truth about her condition a secret from Nai Nai (Mandarin for "grandmother") and sets up a wedding as a pretense for their reunion.[34][35] Wang based the film on her own grandmother's illness, which also included her family setting up a wedding as a pretense; the film opens with a title card stating Based on an actual lie.[34][36][37] The film is presented for the most part in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles. It was filmed in the neighborhood where Wang's grandmother lived and Wang cast her actual great aunt Lu Hong to play herself in the film.[35] After its Sundance premiere, numerous publications listed The Farewell as a standout at the festival, including Variety,[38] Thrillist,[39] and Rolling Stone.[40] Despite being an award winning film now, Lulu Wang struggled with American Financiers when pitching the movie The Farewell. It was suggested to Wang that she added a prominent white character into her movie and to switch the genre of the movie from drama to comedy. Even when pitching the movie to a Chinese financier, incorporating a white character was suggested. “People are so influenced by Hollywood” Wang says and she strived to break out that box by refusing to “whitewash” the film.

In an IndieWire critics survey published after the festival, The Farewell was voted Best Film and Best Screenplay and Wang was voted Best Director.[41] The film holds a 99% Critics Consensus rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 207 reviews.[42]

In January 2019, Variety named Wang one of ten "Directors to Watch." In an interview with the publication, she described her next project as "very grounded science fiction."[43]

The Farewell opened in limited release in four US theaters on July 12, 2019. The film opened to a gross of $351,330, averaging $87,833 per theater, surpassing the average of Avengers: Endgame which averaged $76,601 in 4,662 theaters for a gross of $357,115,007 on its opening weekend.[44] The Farewell was released nationwide in the US on August 2, 2019.[45]

The film attracted less interest in China, however, leading Variety to label it a box office "flop" in China, then the world's second-largest film market.[46]

On December 4, 2019, the American Film Institute announced that The Farewell was one of that year's ten recipients of the 2019 AFI Awards for "films that are culturally and artistically representative" of 2019's "most significant achievements in the art of the moving image."[47]

For her role as Billi, Awkwafina was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy on January 5, 2020. The Farewell won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature at the 35th Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California on February 8, 2020.[48] When awarded for her movie The Farewell, Wang dedicated her speech to talk about the lack of female director nominees. Wang states programs and encouragement are not "enough" and that the filmmaking industry needs to give women more jobs. Lulu Wang further emphasized the importance of making the same bets on female filmmakers as they do with male filmmakers.

On January 28, 2021 Apple released an 11-minute short film called Nian written and directed by Wang, celebrating the 2021 Chinese New Year. The short film was shot in its entirety using an iPhone 12 Pro Max.[49][50]

Wang's next project is a film adaptation of Alexander Weinstein's collection of science fiction short stories, Children of the New World. She has said that the project "centers on questions of family."[51]

Most recently, she, along with Dani Melia had launched Local Time Productions, with a first-look deal at Amazon Studios.[52]

Personal life[edit]

Wang is fluent in English and Mandarin Chinese and also speaks some Spanish.[53] She has been in a relationship with fellow filmmaker Barry Jenkins since 2018.[1]

Her brother Anthony is a sous-chef at Eric Bost's restaurant Auburn in Los Angeles.[4][54]


Influences and approach[edit]

Cinematic influences were limited for Wang's film The Farewell. Previewed in her roadblocks to find financiers, producing a narrative that authentically communicated the Asian immigrant experience was considered new territory and there were few to none “comps” or comparatives, to guarantee its success. Because there were few films with which to compare the narrative, Wang's main influences were her family. In an attempt to curate and maintain authenticity, she requested her father to read the script and repeatedly asked “does this feel like I am properly representing everyone”.[55] Through his perspective, the mundaneness garnered questions about interest and why the narrative was not dramatized further to satiate Western audiences.

When filming The Farewell in particular, the autobiographical narrative required an inquisitional approach to writing and directing, forcing Wang to take on a role not dissimilar to a journalist in an attempt to extract the raw emotions her family members experienced in regards to maintaining the lie about Nai Nai's illness as well as the identity struggle of being a hyphenate.  In fact, amidst production Wang's family expressed uncertainty in her narrative claiming there are things she “doesn’t know enough about China to write the story”, evoking a sense of responsibility to research and interrogate further about her grandmother's history and her individual family members’ perspectives.[56]  An interview process ensued in an attempt to absorb as much authenticity as possible, sometimes provoking painful memories. Lu Hong, Wang's real great aunt, was cast as herself, evoking palpable emotional conflict in her performance, but also giving feedback behind the screen on accuracy, easing ethical quandaries and providing emotional support.[55]


Wang's newest endeavor is an Amazon series in collaboration with producer and actress Nicole Kidman called “Expats”, based on the novel The Expatriates by Janice YK Lee. Bound by a sudden tragedy, three American women from Hong Kong form a complex bond that proves to be ever changing. Wang remarks on the series as an “examination of privilege, in many different ways whether it’s race, class, colorism” and expresses her excitement in the newly acquired creative freedom.[55]

Favorite films[edit]

In a 2022 poll with Sight and Sound, Wang named these ten films as her favorite.[57]



Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2005 Pisces Yes Yes Yes Short film
2006 Fishing the Gulf Yes No No Documentary short film
2007 Can-Can Yes Yes Yes Short film
2014 Posthumous Yes Yes No Feature directorial debut
2015 Touch Yes Yes No Short film
2019 The Farewell Yes Yes Yes
2021 Nian Yes Yes No Short film
TBA It's a Mother It's a Daughter(是妈妈是女儿) Yes Yes Yes


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
TBA Expats Yes Yes Yes Upcoming series

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist Notes
2011 "Nobody Told Me" Vintage Trouble
2014 "Still and Always Will"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result Ref.
2020 British Academy Film Award Best Film Not in the English Language The Farewell Nominated [58]
2020 Golden Globe Award Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
2020 Independent Spirit Award Best Feature Won
2019 American Film Institute Top 10 Films Won
2019 Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize Jury Nominated
2019 Palm Springs International Film Festival Directors to Watch Won
2019 Gotham Award Best Feature Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Audience Award Nominated
2019 Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Screenplay Nominated
2019 Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Breakthrough Filmmaker Nominated
2019 Columbus Film Critics Association Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 Denver Film Critics Society Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 Florida Film Critics Circle Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Pauline Kael Breakout Award Nominated
2019 Georgia Film Critics Association Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 Hollywood Critics Association Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 Houston Film Critics Society Award Best Screenplay Nominated
2019 Satellite Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 North Carolina Film Critics Association Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 North Texas Film Critics Association Award Best Director Nominated
2019 Online Association of Female Film Critics Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2019 Seattle Film Critics Society Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "New Power Couple Alert: Barry Jenkins Makes Red Carpet Debut With Indie Filmmaker Lulu Wang". The Hollywood Reporter. March 13, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  2. ^ 热映电影《别告诉她》(The Farewell)导演王子逸(Lulu Wang)接受西雅图中文电台专访. Chinese Radio Seattle. August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Jung, Alex (July 2019). "Lulu Wang Spots the Lie The director of the Sundance sensation The Farewell has made the kind of movie Hollywood never makes". Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b La Force, Thessaly (July 11, 2019). "How to Create a Chinese Feast, Inspired by Lulu Wang's 'The Farewell'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  5. ^ "Filmmaker Lulu Wang Is Proving Asian-American 'Stories Are Worthwhile'". NBC News. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  6. ^ "The annual Rising Stars Showcase highlights the exceptional talent of more than 200 NWSA students!". New World School of the Arts. March 4, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  7. ^ "Lulu Wang". EMPOWER 2019. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Yap, Audrey Cleo (August 2, 2019). "Why 'The Farewell' Director Lulu Wang Made Awkwafina Her Lead". Variety. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  9. ^ Ran, Jillian (July 30, 2019). "BC Alumna's 'The Farewell' Examines Cultural Divide". The Heights. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  10. ^ Malkin, Marc (December 17, 2019). "Listen: Lulu Wang on 'The Farewell' Oscar Buzz and How 'Secretary' Inspired Her to Become a Filmmaker". Variety. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d Axelson, Amanda (May 1, 2006). "Can-Can Attitude". Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  12. ^ "Filmmaker Lulu Wang Based 'The Farewell' On Her Family's Real-Life Lie". NPR. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  13. ^ "Tony Hale". IMDb. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
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  15. ^ "@BC » Feature Archive » The winners are". Archived from the original on May 5, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
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  18. ^ a b Yap, Audrey Cleo (August 16, 2016). "Filmmaker Lulu Wang Is Proving Asian-American 'Stories Are Worthwhile'". NBC News. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
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  31. ^ Glass, Ira (April 22, 2016). "585: In Defense of Ignorance Transcript". This American Life. WBEZ. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
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  36. ^ Lee, Jennifer 8. (February 3, 2019). "Based On An Actual Lie: Director Lulu Wang's Sundance Hit". NPR. Retrieved July 28, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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  42. ^ The Farewell (2019), retrieved August 9, 2019
  43. ^ Saval, Malina (January 4, 2019). "10 Directors to Watch: Lulu Wang Shows Another Side of Awkwafina in 'The Farewell'". Variety. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  44. ^ "'The Farewell' has dethroned 'Avengers: Endgame' for 2019's biggest per-theater average". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  45. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (July 15, 2019). "Can 'The Farewell' Become a Summer Box Office Breakout?". Variety. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  46. ^ Davis, Rebecca (January 20, 2020). "Why 'The Farewell' Flopped In China". Variety. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
  47. ^ "AFI AWARDS 2019 Honorees Announced". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  48. ^ Bushby, Helen (February 9, 2020). "The Farewell wins best film prize ahead of Oscars". BBC News. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  49. ^ "Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max I Chinese New Year – Nian - YouTube". Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  50. ^ "Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max I Chinese New Year – Making of 'Nian' with Lulu Wang - YouTube". Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  51. ^ Sperling, Nicole (July 3, 2019). "Why Lulu Wang Almost Said Farewell to Hollywood". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  52. ^ White, Peter (January 25, 2022). "'The Farewell' Director Lulu Wang & Dani Melia Launch Local Time Production Company With First-Look TV Deal At Amazon". Deadline. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  53. ^ "About". LULU WANG. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  54. ^ Crowley, Chris (January 31, 2020). "Director Lulu Wang Orders Dumplings at the Spa". Grub Street. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  55. ^ a b c "Welcome to 'Asian Enough,' Season 2". Los Angeles Times. April 27, 2021. Retrieved December 4, 2021.
  56. ^ Lulu Wang - 'The Farewell', retrieved December 4, 2021
  57. ^
  58. ^ "Lulu Wang". IMDb.

External links[edit]