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Sean Wang shines at Sundance with “Dìdi”

Sean Wang, director of Dìdi (弟弟), an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Alexandria Lior.

“Dìdi,” directed by Sean Wang, had its world premiere Jan. 25 at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and was also available online until Jan. 28.

“Dìdi” is a coming-of-age film about a Taiwanese American boy named Wang Wang who grows up in California. The film showcases the struggles Wang Wang has while being a teenager, including learning how to love his mom, flirting for the first time and finding his place in the world.

The film was entered into the U.S. Dramatic competition and won two awards: the Audience Award for the U.S. Dramatic category and the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble for its casting.

“This cast worked together, like a beautiful symphony. There were people of different ages and different levels of experience and yet this group of actors felt like they’d known and worked with each other forever,” the festival jury said, according to a press release from the Sundance Institute. “It is the chemistry between these actors that helped to give this film its sense of vibrancy and helped to bring to life the joys and pains of growing up.”

The cast was special to Wang because his grandmother played the main character’s grandmother, Nai Nai. Wang was initially worried she wouldn’t be a good fit, but he said he and his crew knew after the first reading that she was a perfect fit.

The film is truly a coming-of-age film. Many of the experiences Wang Wang goes through may resonate with audience members. Trying to fit in and be “cool” by using the slang of the time, but ending up saying all the wrong things, looking up how to kiss on the internet and practicing on an apple or even having screaming matches with your siblings and taking their clothes.

The film was inspired by Wang’s own childhood and upbringing. Wang wanted to create a cast and a film that had people similar to those he grew up around. Because of this it started as a love letter to Wang’s friends, but as he continued creating the film it became a love letter to his family, friends and the place he grew up in.

Wang experimented with different camera techniques and used the internet. Wang created scenes where it seemed the audience members were sitting at the computer screen searching things on Google or watching the videos.

He explained in a Q&A that many filmmakers try to steer away from making it seem like the viewer is looking at a screen, however in “Dìdi,” Wang found ways to integrate it into the film, making it seem more personal and realistic as well as setting up the time period.

Wang also used a vlogging type of camera work, where the film was being shot by the main character, giving it a home-video type of feel to the film.

Wang’s hope for this film was to look back on his childhood and for audience members to look back on theirs and tell their 13-year-old selves they didn’t have to be so hard on themselves.

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Lexie Andrew, Culture editor

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