‘The Farewell’ — cultures clash in this low-key film with a big heart

“The Farewell” is a film by writer/director Lulu Wang. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

‘The Farewell’ — cultures clash in this low-key film with a big heart

DUBAI: The Chinese have a saying: it’s not the disease that kills you, it’s the fear. “The Farewell,” a film by writer/director Lulu Wang, is about what happens when a family heeds that wisdom, even when lying is more painful than telling the truth.

It’s based on a true story: Six years ago, Wang found out that her beloved grandmother living in China, whom she calls Nai Nai, had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, and given mere months to live. Six years later, she’s still alive. And she still doesn’t know she has cancer.




Six years ago, Wang found out that her beloved grandmother living in China, had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. (AFP)

The film follows Wang’s fictional counterpart Billi (Awkwafina), who journeys with her parents back to China from the US to see Nai Nai before it’s too late, using the excuse of a hastily arranged family wedding. The family has decided that no one will tell the grandmother that she is sick. Billi disagrees with this deception — but goes along with her family’s wishes.

What makes “The Farewell” work is its enormous heart. Every character is full of love for this ebullient and charming grandmother, and while they disagree, they are all doing what they think is right for her, not for themselves. It captures the joy and the sadness that comes from spending time with someone you know won’t be with you forever. At times you’ll laugh while characters are crying, other times you’ll cry while they laugh. The film will make you love Nai Nai too, and you’ll feel her light, and that impending loss, just as strongly as they do.




The film follows Wang’s fictional counterpart Billi (Awkwafina). (Supplied)

We understand why Billi wants to tell her grandmother the truth, clinging to the American ideal of individual freedom, but the film never looks down on either Billi or her family, never belittles the family’s traditions as close-minded. No one is clearly right, even when one side wins out. The film’s truth is not in one culture or the other, but in finding a way for love and respect to end conflict.

“The Farewell” may be too low-key a film to turn many heads before it starts picking up awards, but for those that have ever felt stuck between two worlds, and for those who have ever lost someone special to them, there will be pangs of recognition that hit harder than any other film this year. See it. It stirs the soul.


Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition. (Supplied)
Updated 26 min 24 sec ago

Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

  • Cairo Saturday Walks are a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city
  • The team is now exhibiting its work for charity at a gallery in the city

DUBAI: The Cairo Saturday Walks team, a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city, are now exhibiting their work for charity at a gallery in the city.

The exhibition brought together more than 50 local, international, professional and amateur photographers who are displaying their work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22.

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60. (Supplied)

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past, according to the founder of Cairo Saturday Walks Karim El-Hayawan.

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition.

El-Hayawan described the practice as an “organic experience,” during which photographers discover the city’s hidden gems.

The group is displaying its work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22. (Supplied)

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers.

El-Hayawan’s journey began after he took a basic introductory course in photography. “I did not have time during the week to work on my photography assignments. I used to go out every Saturday to take pictures and I used to post on my account. Then a lot of people started asking me ‘Where are these places? Where do you go? We want to join,’ although (these places) exist 10-15 minutes from anywhere in Cairo, but people did not notice them or had forgotten them,” he told Arab News.

The photographers walk around and discover the city’s hidden gems. (Supplied)

The group has a library of more than 15,000 pictures accessible on Instagram through #cairosaturdaywalks.

“We ask people who join us to share their pictures on that hashtag, with the intention of having a long-term documentation of Cairo,” El-Hayawan said. “Everyone takes pictures from his/her own perspective. It is extremely neutral; everyone takes pictures of whatever they want.”

In two to three years, people can go back to this documentation and see that Cairo looked this way at this time,” he said.

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past. (Supplied)

A typical Saturday for the photographers starts off at a cafe. “We meet in the morning at a coffee shop and we take a little bus that we rent every Saturday and we just hit the road to somewhere random and we get lost. We call them to pick us up from wherever we reach at the end of the day. The idea is that it has no structure and I really aimed at that from the very beginning,” El-Hayawan said.

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers. (Supplied)

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60, but El-Hayawan said that anyone can join the walk and share their pictures.

“I found out about Cairo Saturday Walks from Instagram. The spirit of people I walk with is just amazing. Also, the fact that I am Egyptian yet I still get amazed by Cairo’s streets is what pushes me to explore more every week,” Yara Wael, a 17-year-old photographer, told Arab News.