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Best Supportive Granny? For "The Farewell" begins an Oscar campaign

What would you do if everyone talked about a movie you did not see?

Let's say this movie was "The Farewell," an indie smash this summer about members of a Chinese family trying to keep it. Their beloved granny is learning about their terminal cancer diagnosis.

And now let's say you are the actress Grandma played.

Yes, Zhao Shuzhen may earn Oscar enthusiasm for her work as matriarchal Nai Nai in "The Farewell," but that does not mean that she could actually see the movie she is playing with. "I did not know it was such a phenomenon!" The 76-year-old Chinese actress told me one night in early November, after meeting with her director Lulu Wang and co-star Awkwafina to film the award-winning film in Beverly Hills.

It was Shuzhen's first trip to the United States. I was unprepared when people recognized her at the show. Many saw "The Farewell" for the second time, twice more than Shuzhen himself had seen. "Attention, praise, it's inconceivable to me," she said through a translator. But at least Shuzhen had a good excuse to be late for the party: "It has not come out yet in China," she told me, "and I was so busy filming ." [19659006] Although "The Farewell" was Shuzhen's American debut, she is well known and often booked in China, where she appears in several television dramas each year. "In some dramas, the grandma has to play a bigger part, in other dramas the grandma is not used that often," she said. But in her 70s, she was happy to be so productive. "To start at 16 and be in old age and still play, I'm just grateful for that."

This night in Beverly Hills was the first time Awkwafina has seen Shuzhen since they finished filming last year. While the older woman spoke, Awkwafina looked at her reverently. "I get a bit emotional when I'm sitting with her," said Awkwafina. "After what happened with this movie, I want her to know that she is loved here."

It was a dynamic similar to that of her characters in "The Farewell," the Awkwafina's returning New Yorker Billi plays, not unlike Changchun when she learned of her grandmother's diagnosis. Billi's parents ask her to keep Nai Nai in the dark about the condition of her cancer – they believe she will lose all hope and go down when she learns she has only a few months left – but Billi tries to get the matriarch she loves to fool.

Shuzhen beamed in an eggplant coat and a string of pearls as Awkwafina and Wang briefed her about the success of the film: since its release in the United States in July, "The Farewell" was one of the highest films of the year. Indie playing in. "Having her here is a reminder that the movie has become so much bigger than we thought," Wang said. "I have talked about it all over the world and it has been published in several languages," she added, saying that she was tickled by Shuzhen's surprise. "She says," I have not seen the movie yet. I hope it is good! "All the women laughed, but Wang was sincere." It's all really affirmative, "she said." We know what it took to make this film, it may look effortless and natural, but if I'm going to Watching a movie, I see every single battle that has gone down in history. "

When Wang first attempted to board" The Farewell, "the financiers shied away from the All-Asian occupation of the sounds and potential language barrier – 80 percent The dialogue was Mandarin – and recommended Wang to add more romance and English, yet Wang had supported the film on the true story of her own family, and she was determined to stick to what had really happened.

It was something else that drives me, something intangible, "she said," but listening to that voice and trusting yourself can be really difficult. "

Many of these conflicts will be like that appear as soon as "The Farewell" is positioned for an award ceremony. Should the movie be classified as a comedy or drama? And should it be defined with its mix of Mandarin and English as a foreign language film or an American indie?

"The Farewell" Wins the Golden Book Award for Claiming the Foreign Language Film Award The arcane rules of this contest prevent such films from competing for the best comedy and drama trophies. The Oscars have no such precept, but the Academy does not classify Wang's film as an international fighter because it was produced in the United States.

These rules can feel arbitrary and conflict with the realities of an increasingly inappropriate film. Wang noted that the Academy had recently come under fire for refusing Nigeria's application for the International Film Oscar because he spoke too much English contained. When Wang pointed out these things, she sometimes felt self-confident: "Oh no, I do not fit!" Nevertheless, she was glad to be part of the complicated conversation about what makes a foreign film whose eyes.

"Until you have a real film that challenges the traditional categories and ways of looking at things, do not conduct those conversations in a certain way," she said.

ONE WEEK LATER, I met Wang and Shuzhen at another awards ceremony that took place in a trendy West Hollywood hotel. When people persuaded Shuzhen to hug and take selfies, Wang gave me an important update: "Zhao," she said, "saw the movie."

Throughout the room, Shuzhen confirmed the message. Distributor A24 had a familiar idea of ​​"The Farewell" for her and her daughter, and "I was very moved," Shuzhen said.

Your translator Eugene Suen, leaned forward to me. "She did not say that, but I can tell you because I was sitting very close to them: they all wiped away tears," he said. "When I saw that, I thought, 'Okay, I think she likes it. "

For the last few days, Shuzhen had enthusiastically attended the awards, conducted countless interviews, and appeared at several important soirees: at one of the group's Golden Globes event, she even had Robert Met Pattinson. Her first trip to America was nearing its end, but when she realized what "The Farewell" meant to the audience, she was not ready to say goodbye.

"Honestly, I do not want to go," Shuzhen said, "The people here are so nice, I'll miss everyone." Nearby, a man holding a champagne glass and a chihuahua discreetly stopped Photo of her.

What if the Oscars give Shuzhen a reason to return to this crazy city by nominating for a supporting actress? I asked her if she would be willing to make more room in her class and she blushed

"I think I would say, I hope so, I long for it," Shuzhen said, "and if it does not happen, I can only dream of it."

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