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'The Farewell' Director Lulu Wang Questions Ron Howard's Latest Gig

By Kristy Puchko | Film | September 23, 2020 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | September 23, 2020 |


Ron Howard has directed a long line of biopics and historical dramas, including Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rush, In the Heart Of The Sea, Cinderella Man, and Frost/Nixon. So he might seem a natural choice for directing the adaptation of Journey of a Thousand Miles, the memoir of Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang. However, acclaimed writer/director Lulu Wang takes issue with this hiring news.

She explained why on Twitter.

Yes, Howard has a history of helming critically heralded biopics. Yet all of those films center on white men. Therefore, Wang understandably wonders if Howard has the cultural understanding required to aptly translate Lang’s story to the big screen.

Chinese-American filmmaker Wang came to fame by sharing her own family’s story of culture clash with The Farewell. However, she notes she is not campaigning for the helm of the Lang biopic.

Instead, she asks producers to consider what it means for their movies when they choose directors who are not a part of the culture represented in a given film. As an example, she offers Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, where New Zealander Niki Caro helmed the adventure inspired by Chinese legend.

Mulan has received mixed reviews stateside, some of which condemned the film’s representation of Chinese culture. Asian-American film critic Walter Chaw wrote in his review at Film Freak Central:

When I watch things like Niki Caro’s Mulan, I see in it the way white Americans see me: accented, mystical, bound, some would say hobbled, by notions of honour, drowned in centuries of arcane history and hipster appropriations of ancient concepts like ‘chi,’ for instance, kung fu for another. I am seen, if I am seen, by white Americans as this collection of half-formed impressions and the vague notion of ineffable otherness. Mulan confirms that I am not like you and never will be, and the pain of it makes it difficult for me to watch.

On Twitter, film fans debated Lang’s thread. One user suggested filmmakers should not be constrained to only represent the culture in which they were raised.

Others noted that Hollywood films that make inclusivity only screen-deep do not go far enough.

This issue goes beyond the director’s seat. As one user pointed out, the screenplay of Journey of a Thousand Miles is being adapted by married screenwriters, Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney.

Their previous screen credits include Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the Ryan Reynolds superhero comedy Paperman, and 2017’s Power Rangers.

At time of posting, Ron Howard has not responded to Wang’s comments.

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Kristy Puchko is the film editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Getty