Lisa See's novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells the tale of the friendship of two laotongs (sworn sisters) over their lifetime (set in 19th century China) played by Gianna Jun and Li Bing Bing. "The film has two separate but parallel storylines - the main period piece, and a contemporary-set subplot which follows the two women's descendants who struggle to maintain their friendship as their demanding careers and complicated love lives get in the way." The lead actresses will play their ancestors Snow Flower and Lily and their present-day descendants. Archie Kao (from CSI) plays the male lead. Directed by: Wayne Wang (Joy Luck Club)
taken from Julie Brickman's Review, San Diego:
"At 80, the narrator, Lily, is the senior woman of a wealthy household, powerful enough that she can speak her mind about her life's treasures and errors. Born in 1823 in the Hunan province, Lily started off as "a second worthless girl" in a poor farming family. Because her feet were high in the arch and potentially breathtaking, she had the potential to marry well and elevate the status of her family. She could also enter a second formal match, to another woman, a lifetime best friend called a sworn sister or laotong.
"A laotong match is as significant as a good marriage," Lily's aunt explained. "A laotong relationship is made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose – to have sons." "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is the story of such a friendship.
Snow Flower becomes Lily's sworn sister, or "old same," meaning perfect match. Snow Flower is from a high family in a prestigious neighboring town, her grandfather an imperial scholar. She can teach Lily the social rituals of important families. Lily can teach her the humble arts of cooking and cleaning."
Playlist: What attracted director Wayne Wang to the film was the opportunity to tell a part of Chinese history about women that has never really been seen on screens before. “There’s so much about what women have gone through that has never been on the screen. Whether it’s in China, or here. I just felt very strongly this story has to be told. Things such as feet-binding, things such as this really contractual, very emotional marriage between women called laotong, and things such as the nu shu which is a women’s language they wrote to each other that they only understood. All these things are [topics] I wanted to talk about. And no one has really done this kind of story.”
Hugh Jackman has a cameo role, Wang explains, "And then, in the script, there was a character that came up who is in Shanghai and he runs a lot of clubs and he recreates some old Shanghai songs and I just thought it would be great to hear Hugh Jackman sing in Chinese. He did great. He is good with languages. I thought it would take him weeks at least to learn the song but he learned it pretty quickly,” Wang said about his performance in the film. But he’s keeping mum on where in the film it will appear saying, “It is a very lighthearted moment that leads to a traumatic moment, I won’t say more about it [laughs].”
Review, Washington Post:
“The wonder of this book is that it takes readers to a place at once foreign and familiar— foreign because of its time and setting, yet familiar because this landscape of love and sorrow is inhabited by us all. SnowFlower and the Secret Fan is a triumph on every level, a beautiful, heartbreaking story.”