Patrick Wang doesn’t make it easy on himself. Though the independent writer, director, and actor’s first two films have been lauded by critics, neither has exactly stormed the box office. Nonetheless, he’s now taken on a four-hour, two-part project featuring a cast of over a hundred and a couple of song and dance numbers.
Born in Texas to immigrants from Taiwan, Wang graduated with a degree in economics from MIT before writing In the Family (2011), a story of a working-class gay man in a small town in Tennessee who loses his partner to a fatal car accident and fights to secure custody of the boy they’ve raised together. As he told Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay in 2012, Wang intended to sell the screenplay, but when he realized his vision would be compromised in the hands of others, he dipped into his savings and made the film himself. In the Family was rejected by around thirty festivals before finally premiering at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, where it won an award for best narrative feature.
Wang then rented out the Quad Cinema in New York—quite a different theater in those days from the renovated repertory showcase it is now—and the gamble paid off in the form of a rave in the New York Times. “Beautifully modulated and stylistically sui generis,” wrote Paul Brunick, “In the Family is also one of the most accomplished and undersold directorial debuts this year.” A nomination for best first feature at the Independent Spirit Awards followed.