UW News

October 25, 2006

Film based on novel by UW professor Shawn Wong to be distributed nationally

“Americanese,” the film based on a novel by University of Washington professor Shawn Wong, is going big time. IFC First Take, a New York-based entertainment company, has bought the North American rights to the film and is planning to distribute it to movie houses around the country next summer. It’ll also be available as video on demand.

“A lot of novels get optioned but never made into movies, and a lot of movies get made but not distributed. This is like a dream come true,” said Wong.

He wrote “American Knees” more than a decade ago. His now-deceased wife, Vicki Tsuchida, had asked for a comedy, something she could read on the beach. Wong wrote a comedy, but the movie examines the more serious parts of the story.

Directed by Eric Byler and performed by an ensemble cast, “Americanese” charts the break-up of Raymond Ding (Chris Tashima) and Aurora Crane (Allison Sie). “It’s about romance but a romance about race and ethnicity and mixed race heritage,” said Wong. Racial issues wind up creating pain not only in the couple’s relationship, but in relationships around them, even within families.

“Byler wrote and directed a moving and layered film with an extraordinarily talented cast,” IFC Entertainment President Jonathan Sehring said in a written statement.

“Americanese” captured the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and Jury Prize for Outstanding Ensemble Acting at the South by Southwest International Film Festival earlier this year.

“Watching your book turn in to film is surreal,” and watching 1,400 people see the product of your imagination makes it even more surreal, Wong said.

In a “University Week” interview this past March, Wong explained the title, “American Knees”: “When I was a child, kids used to come up to me and ask, ‘What are you: Chinese, Japanese or Americanese?'”

Sometimes, though, they’d ask something else: “Chinese, Japanese or dirty knees?”

“I never really knew what that meant when I was a kid,” Wong recalled, “but I knew I didn’t like it.”

Simon & Schuster first published “American Knees” in 1995, and the UW Press reissued it in 2005. Wong’s first novel, Homebase (Reed & Cannon, 1979), won the Northwest Booksellers Award and the 15th Annual Governor’s Writers Day Award of Washington.

A member of the UW English department, Wong has co-edited six multicultural literary anthologies, including the “Aiiieeeee! Anthology of Asian American Writers.” He has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Italy.

# # #

For more information, contact:

Michelle Panzer, vp of publicity, IFC Entertainment, (646) 273-7207 or mmpanzer@ifcfilms.com  

Shawn Wong, homebase@u.washington.edu