'Nai Nai and Wai Po' director talks about taking grandmothers featured in his short film to Oscars

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Thursday, February 22, 2024
'Nai Nai and Wài Pó' director talks taking heartwarming film to Oscars
Sandy Kenyon has the story.

NEW YORK -- Oscar voting begins for the 9,500 members of the Motion Picture Academy eligible to mark their ballots this year.

The lucky winners will be announced on ABC.

One short documentary is attracting plenty of attention because of the way it tells a universal story by focusing on two grandmothers: one is in her 80s. The other is in her 90s.

"Nai Nai and Wai Po" are getting ready to attend the Oscar ceremony thanks to their grandson who simply wanted to document their lives, and ended up getting nominated for an Academy Award last month.

The cheers came for a celebration of one man's close relationship with his grandmothers.

"We're almost like sisters," they said.

Nai Nai and Wai Po live together in northern California where they take care of each other.

"And I think that's so special for them to have this friendship and this bond in their twilight years," said Sean Wang, the director.

Wang takes great pleasure in their company and their love of him is evident.

But, this is a portrait rendered in light and dark.

"Everybody knows what joy feels like. Everybody knows what love feels like, what fear feels like, and I think to just kind of filter those emotions through my own experience, my own relationship with my grandmothers, is hopefully something that everybody can somewhat relate to," Wang said.

Their resilient spirit and sense of fun helps make their grandson's short film so heartwarming, but his project took shape during a troubled time.

"We shot it in the spring of 2021 which was sort of the height of COVID, and I think COVID also led to the rise of a lot of anti-Asian sentiment, and a lot of anti-Asian hate crimes," he said.

All of which makes the words of Nai Nai seem even more meaningful:

"The days we spend feeling pain and the days we spend feeling joy are the same days spent so I am going to choose joy," Nai Nai said.

Wai Po said their lives are "pretty ordinary," but in just a quarter of an hour these two move us in extraordinary ways, and that is definitely worth cheering about.

"It really is a dream. Like, the sentence: 'I'm going to the Oscars with my grandmothers." Like, that is a sentence I never thought i would say," Wang said.

Wang never anticipated his short would be shown on Disney+ and Hulu, which are owned by the same parent company as ABC, but any subscriber to those services can now see his wonderful movie.

Eyewitness News Reporter Sandy Kenyon said watching the movie brought back warm memories of his own grandmother.

As a baby I called my mother "Ma," my father "Da," and this other person was "Ba."

He called Virginia Delehanty "Ba" until the end of her long life, and this movie reminded him of all she gave to him, his brother Geoffrey and sister Vicky.

March 10 is Oscar Sunday! Watch the 2024 Oscars live on ABC.

Red carpet coverage starts at 1 p.m. ET 10 a.m. PT with "Countdown to Oscars: On The Red Carpet Live." At 4 p.m. ET 1 p.m. PT, live coverage continues with "On The Red Carpet at the Oscars," hosted by George Pennacchio with Roshumba Williams, Leslie Lopez and Rachel Brown.

Watch all the action on the red carpet live on ABC, streaming live on OnTheRedCarpet.com and on the On the Red Carpet Facebook and YouTube pages.

The 96th Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, begins at 7 p.m. ET 4 p.m. PT, an hour earlier than past years.

The Oscars are followed by an all-new episode of "Abbott Elementary."

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