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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is a 2007 drama feature film directed by Wayne Wang starring Yu Feihong, Henry O, Vida Ghahremani and Pasha Lychnikoff, adapted from her short story by Yiyun Li and shot on a high-end high-definition video camera. A Chinese widower visits his daughter in America.

It was made as a companion piece to The Princess of Nebraska, a 2007 film also directed by Wayne Wang and adapted from Yiyun Li’s short story.


The film follows Mr. Shi (Henry O), a retired widower from Beijing. When his only daughter, Yilan (Yu Feihong), who lives in Spokane, Washingtonmarker and works as a librarian, gets divorced, he decides to visit her to help her heal. However Yilan is not interested. She keeps her distance, finally avoiding her father. It is revealed that she is getting ready to marry again, with a Russian man (Pasha Lychnikoff).

As Mr. Shi explores the small town, he meets an old woman, Madam (Vida Ghahremani), who had fled to the United Statesmarker from Iranmarker after the revolution. Neither Mr. Shi nor Madam speak English well, but by gesturing and talking in their own tongues, they start a friendship which ends when Madam is sent to a retirement home. Eventually, Mr. Shi and Yilan come to terms as father and daughter.


Wayne Wang chose to adapt A Thousand Years of Good Prayers into a film because it reminded him of all the Ozu films he so admired when he was a film student. He also has said that he was drawn to the short story by Yiyun Li because of some similarities to his own father.

When Wang first approached Yiyun Li, who had no previous experience, to write the screenplay, he provided her with screenwriting software and "some good scripts." The vague Midwestern setting was changed to Spokane, where Yiyun Li had studied.


The film was lauded by critics, such as Kim Voynar at Cinematical as being "meticulously paced and beautifully shot", while Screen International writer Patrick Z. McGavin called it "not earth-shattering or particularly urgent, though it enables a talented filmmaker to work through personal ideas about assimilation and family conflict in an open, smart and gracious way." Todd McCarthy from film industry magazine Variety described the film as "Mainly concerned with generational and cultural issues, very modest entry possesses equally modest commercial potential."

Awards and nominations

It won the Golden Shell Award for Best Film and also Best Actor Award at the 55th San Sebastián International Film Festival.


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