HomeAAPI Actors'Nai Nai & Wài Pó’ offers insight into the grandmothers-in-law relationship

‘Nai Nai & Wài Pó’ offers insight into the grandmothers-in-law relationship

by Erin Chew

Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó is a personal love letter from Taiwanese-American director Sean Wang (Dìdi) to his grandmothers Chang Li Hua and Yi Yan Fue.

In the film, he turns a camera on his grandmas (his Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó), who are inseparable best friends and roommates in their eighties and nineties. Described as “the most pure form of joy in his life,” Wang discusses this love and relationship he has with his Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó in an interview with AsAmNews.

“What is amazing is that my Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó are three-dimensional as characters in my documentary and in real life,” Wang said. “They both enjoy life to the fullest and I couldn’t ask for better grandmothers. I love both of them dearly and my relationship with both is always about fun and laughter. I define my relationship with both of them as warmth and joy and a very loud stillness”.

The film captures their daily lives in fun, hilarious and unexpected ways as they dance, stretch and fart their sorrows away. Together, grandmas and grandson remind audiences that getting older doesn’t have to mean fading away, but it is all about living life to the fullest, while at the same time confronting the demons of losing friends due to time and loneliness head-on.

“One important factor in the making of the short documentary film was not just to capture the happiness and joy, but to also capture how those in their eighties and nineties deal with loss, loneliness and the idea that time is ticking away fast,” Wang said.

“We didn’t want to ignore what life is like at these ages – where you see your friends slowly pass away and what it feels like to have regrets in life. My Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó were able to address their pain and sufferings during childhood, life during their young adulthood and I wanted to honor them by providing this holistic portrait.”

Chang Li Hua, Yi Yan Fue and Sean Wang attend the “Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó” premiere

Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó has been nominated for an Oscar in the documentary short category. This is quite an amazing feat with Wang’s first feature film Dìdi receiving critical and audience acclaim at this year’s Sundance Festival, winning both the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award and the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast. Receiving these awards and accolades has been a surprise for Wang, who stated that he makes his films for his love and passion for filmmaking.

“It is so surreal, amazing and overwhelming for me,” he said. “I love making films, I love centering my own experiences and my family’s as topics for my films because I want to tell the human story and share the human experience. Thinking about all this, one thing that makes me so happy is that I get to share these awards and recognition with my Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó. It is both of them who are nominated for an Oscar, not me because the documentary short is about them and their lives.”

Finally, in the spirit of the Lunar New Year (which goes on for fifteen days), Wang shared some of his fondest memories of celebrating this auspicious period with his family and with both his Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó.

“Lunar New Year for me is all about family. It is all about sharing a home cooked meal, and telling stories from the past and present,” Wang said.

“I have happy memories visiting my Nǎi Nai when she was living in Taiwan and as a family we would go there and visit her. She would take me out and we would have a great time eating, hearing fire crackers and for me receiving all the red packets. This is similar with my Wài Pó who taught me all I needed to know about what the Lunar New Year means. For her it is all about delicious food and just being around family.”

Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó is a seventeen-minute documentary short that can be streamed over Disney+ and over Hulu.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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