Saying goodbye is never easy – whether to a beloved family member or even to a former homeland – as proven by the upcoming indie dramedy The Farewell, starring comedian Awkwafina as you’ve never seen her. Written and directed by Lulu Wang (Posthumous), it is the story of Billi, a Chinese-American New Yorker who returns to China with her parents after her grandmother is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer – something the entire family is keeping secret from the family matriarch.

This dramatic role is a big change for the popular throaty-voiced rapper/comedian born Nora Lum, whose breakout comic performance in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians put her on the moviemaking map.

Awkwafina in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians

Both Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell are rooted in a common, deep theme about Asian families – stories about unyielding respect for family elders. At The Farewell‘s New York premiere this past week, Awkwafina said she hopes the film will resonate with audiences.

“This movie will teach us universality out of specificity. There’s something that we can all kind of relate to across cultures.”  -Awkwafina

Lulu Wang and Awkwafina

Wang, who currently lives in Los Angeles and is in a relationship with Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), says she based the story on her own grandmother’s illness.

“I always felt the divide in my relationship to my family versus my relationship to my classmates and to my colleagues and to my colleagues and to the world that I inhabit. That’s just the nature of being an immigrant and straddling two cultures.” -Director Lulu Wang

Shot in New York and Changchun, China, the film premiered at Sundance in January 2019 to thunderous praise and was quickly snapped up by A24 for distribution in July.

The Farewell opens nationwide in the United States on July 12.

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