Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó: Review and Q&A with Oscar Nominated filmmaker Sean Wang

Delancey Street Screening Room, San Francisco, California

One of the things I have loved about living in the San Francisco Bay Area since I had moved out here in 1999 has been attending CAAMFest, or what it was known previous, as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) [changed in 2013]. When I started blogging for 8Asians, I was eventually afforded the opportunity to get a press pass for the festival (like this past May). I remain on a public relations agency’s email list to get invited to opportunities like interviewing Randall Park, More recently, I got to screen ‘Nai Nai & Wài Pó (Grandma & Grandma),’ which was recently nominated for a 2024 Oscar for Short Documentary film). In addition, I met filmmaker Sean Wang again for the forementioned film on February 13th.

Back in December 2023, I had the opportunity in San Francisco to screen not only Nai Nai and Wài Pó with filmmakers Sean Wang, but also screen the The Last Repair Shop (also now nominated for an 2024 Oscar for Short Documentary and reviewed here in an upcoming post) and meet with Academy Award® winning director Ben Proudfoot.

So much had happen to Sean between the time I first met him in December 2023 to February 2024, that it was highlighted in a recent New York Times piece, Young Filmmaker Lives His ‘Fairy Tale’ at Sundance:

“Sean Wang, a first-time [feature length] director, received an audience award for his coming-of-age film, “Dìdi.” He also got the ultimate prize: a distribution deal. …

Mr. Wang, a 29-year-old filmmaker, was dressed in a black suit and white Vans (a nod to his skateboarding roots). He grabbed his chest in a show of how fast his heart was beating as he introduced his film, “Dìdi.” It is a coming-of-age story about an angsty, insecure 13-year-old Taiwanese American boy trying to find his place in the world.

Now, after slogging away on his script for six years and finishing the film, Mr. Wang is taking his first steps into the spotlight thanks to Sundance. The moment coincided with promotion of his short film, “Nai Nai & Wài Pó,” about his two grandmothers. That film was recently nominated for an Oscar in the documentary short category and will soon [now, as of February 9th, 2024] become available on Disney+.

Adding to the swirl of excitement was Mr. Wang’s Oscar nomination for his documentary about his grandmothers. He flew back from Utah to watch the early-morning nominations announcement with his family at his childhood home. When “Nai Nai & Wài Pó” was announced as the final nominee in the short film category, Mr. Wang buried his head in his grandma’s lap then fell to the floor.

“I will never get used to this,” he said later in an interview.

“Dìdi” ended up winning the prestigious Sundance audience award, a prize that in years past has gone to movies like “CODA” and “Whiplash.””

Sean Wang and I in San Francisco, February 2024


Being able to see Sean again after all of this had happened and to congratulate him was a pure honor and pleasure. Because of the Oscar nomination of ‘Nai Nai & Wài Pó’ and Sean’s success at Sundance, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area (he’s a native – raised in Fremont, California) for another special screening. I’ve captured  the pre- and post- screening introduction and Q&A below, along with a brief review.

Pre-screening Introduction


The post-screening Q&A was quite interesting and as Sean Wang had commented at the end, quite unique and different than his normal Q&A, especially with the press, with whom questions tended to be pedestrian.

Post-screening Q&A remarks 1 of 3

Post-screening Q&A remarks 2 of 3

Post-screening Q&A remarks 3 of 3

Intro & Post-screening Q&A with filmmakers Sean Wang and Ben Proudfoot (12/9/23) – San Francisco

Sean Wang, Ben Proudfoot, and I

‘Nai Nai and Wai Po’

The film was shot while Sean returned back to the Bay Area in February of 2021, after almost five years of living in New York City and was able to spend the year and the most time that he’d ever spent together with his grandmothers.

His director’s statement described his grandmothers:

“My grandmothers are the purest form of joy in my life. My days spent with them are always full of laughter, dancing and a life-affirming youthful energy, despite their old age. However, the joyful experience of living with them was contrasted by the reality of anti-Asian hate crimes happening in our country. Every news article or video I saw of someone attacking the elderly in our community made me think of my own grandmothers – and how anybody could commit such an inhumane act of violence against someone like them. It deeply angered me and broke my heart.

This film is a reaction to the hateful anti-Asian rhetoric, a celebration of my grandmothers’ lives, and my way of sharing their humanity with the world.

Introducing: my Nai Nai 奶奶 & Wài Pó 外婆. I hope you love them as much as I love them.”

A Brief Review

The short documentary film is charming. In a span of 16 minutes, Wang captures the playfulness of Nai Nai (paternal grandmother) Yi Yan Fuei (age 94) and Wai Po (maternal grandmother) Zhang Li Hua (age 83) – as they live together and convey words of wisdom knowing their days are numbered:

“The days we spend feeling pain and the days we spend feeling joy are the same days spent. So, I’m going to choose joy.”

I never got to know any of my grandparents. Both sides of my grandparents lived in Taiwan and only spoke Taiwanese and Japanese (as Taiwan was a Japanese colony for 50 years), and I could only speak broken Mandarin and had very basic listening skills. As a kid, my parents and I only visited Taiwan once and my grandparents visited us in the United States maybe twice.

To see Wang document his love for his grandmothers who got along and lived together was wonderful to see. To listen to their stories and wisdom and to see their playfulness with each other was endearing. He considers his film a “personal love letter” to them. It also made me wonder what I had missed out not really have any grandparents while growing up.

From what I got from both of these short documentaries only reinforced my thoughts:  everyone has a story to tell, but too often we are not listening, not taking the time to listen or not providing the platform to enable us to listen. These two documentaries are a great platforms for those in the films to tell their stories. Please consider watching them!

Nai Nai and Wai Po is available for streaming here on Disney+.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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