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In ’The Farewell,’ a family drama straddling East and West

NEW YORK — The film director Lulu Wang knew her pitch for “The Farewell” might not go over well. She wanted to make an American film set in China, largely subtitled in Mandarin.

And yet “The Farewell” not only eventually got a green light, but after Wang unveiled it earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, it sparked a bidding war and emerged as one of the breakthroughs in American independent cinema this year.

Wang’s film is introduced as “based on an actual lie.” In 2013, her family learned that her grandmother in China had stage 4 lung cancer and was given three months to live. They decided not to tell her, and instead sought to make her last days a celebration.

“The Farewell” opens in limited release Friday.

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