Wayne Wang is the director of this amazing, tear-jerking film. He also directed The Joy Luck Club and Maid in Manhattan, along with many others. He feels that quiet, truly beautiful films are harder to come by these days, and that is why it is important for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to have a ‘beautiful’ aspect that allows the viewer to breathe. “I can’t even sit through Transformers anymore—it’s so loud,” he comments, laughing. But more importantly, he loved the intimacy and powerful aspects of Lily and Snow Flower’s relationship in Lisa See’s book.
Mr. Wang feels that Chinese women in the 19th century were treated like inferior ‘baby making machines.’ While they embroidered, drank tea, and took care of children in the ‘women’s room’ (separate from where the men were), they did not do much else, especially not ‘men’s business,’ which included reading and writing Chinese characters, making money, and discussing war and politics. Mr. Wang thinks that even though these women were confined in their own world, he thinks it is amazing and special how they still had these close female friendships. Now in modern-day China, women still have these intimate relationships; women hold hands even though they are not lovers, women stay in the same hotel room when they travel, women go to movies together—they have a special, unmatchable relationship, which men do not necessarily have. “[Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is] about a friendship and I wanted to focus on that,” said Mr. Wang.
Having never heard of laotong or nushu before reading Lisa See’s novel, Mr. Wang feels that both of these traditions are specific to a certain time and place. Nushu came from a tribe of women who made dark blue and white dye printing, and the nushu characters came from that visual pattern—that is why it does not look like any other Chinese characters.
Mr. Wang decided to add a parallel story to Lisa See’s ‘period story,’ so he created Nina and Sophia to add a contemporary aspect to the movie. He added one of his own personal experiences that he had with his father into the movie too. After Nina and Sophia’s relationship starts to wane, Sophia crashes while riding her bike after calling Nina and getting voice mail multiple times. Sophia is hospitalized and is in a coma. When she hears about the accident, Nina rushes to the hospital and feels regret for not spending as much time with her laotong and wishes that they had talked through their issues. Mr. Wang said that he and his father had the same kind of relationship. They had conflicts but never discussed them. While going to pay his taxes one day, Mr. Wang’s father was hit by a car and passed away. “I find that this movie kind of triggers off that regret that I have about not talking to my father,” he comments, “But I never make things that specific to my own life, I like to kind of bounce off of it in some ways.”