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Black Sheep interviews Patrick Wang

An interview with IN THE FAMILY writer/director/star, Patrick Wang
and star, Sebastian Banes

As a first time, independent filmmaker, there are few honours that vindicate all the hard work involved in making your first film like an Independent Spirit nomination for Best First Feature. IN THE FAMILY writer / producer / director / star, Patrick Wang, is fortunate enough to know this great reward.

“It was such a relief,” Wang tells me when we meet at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto, where IN THE FAMILY will make its Canadian debut. “As a producer, I knew this would make things a lot easier.”

As a writer, Wang drew upon many sources of inspiration to tell this intense family drama. “I started with this image in my head of two dad’s playing soccer with their kid. I just found myself wondering about them, about what their life was like.” That initial thought would grow into a story where one man loses his lover of six years, only to find out while grieving that he has no legal rights to the son they raised. Instead of letting his pain give way to anger though, Joey, who is incidentally played by Wang, allows generosity of spirit to light his way.

“Even though it has nothing to do with my life, some of my spiritual influences made it into the film,” Wang explains. “There are pieces of my dad in Joey, pieces of my heroes. People who just have this very elegant way of living their lives. In face of difficulties, their mode of operation is not to fight harder.”

There are times when I was watching IN THE FAMILY that I just wanted to shake Joey and tell him to fight back but speaking to Wang showed me that this was really nothing more than my own reaction to a somewhat unorthodox approach. “I need this example just as much as many other people do just to remind us there is a different way of going about things,” Wang says, with ease.

Banes and Wang

Another key factor to the film’s success is the relationship between Joey and his son, Chip, who is played by fresh face, Sebastian Banes. He may only be 8 but, as he tells it, he’s been in the business for a while now. “I started when I was 3,” Banes tells me, when I ask if acting is something he’s always wanted to do. When we touch on what its been like to be a part of IN THE FAMILY, he smiles and says, “I fell really excited and I feel like I’m a movie star.”

Any favourite movies for this young movie star? “Well, I really like IN THE FAMILY,” says the quick witted young man. “And I also like action movies.” Then we talked about THE AVENGERS for a bit. Ask Wang what it was like to work with his co-star and he beams. “It was a lot of fun; we were very close but, let me tell you, the days he was on set were very tiring. On top of everything else, I had to be a dad too.”

Wang and Banes, with co-star, Trevor St. John

All kidding aside though, by demonstrating how little rights Joey actually had to his family, his home and his former life, IN THE FAMILY continues to reinforce the case for gay marriage. Wang is optimistic that people are heading in the right direction but sees more work ahead. “Difference is a very hard thing for people to deal with. It isn’t a shortcoming, just a natural instinct. As laws change, that’s wonderful because it automatically puts us on a better path. You can have it in your laws but you still need it to be in the people. That’s an ongoing thing.”

Films like IN THE FAMILY certainly help this great cause. Just ask the voice of the next generation. “Some people are ok with it, some people aren’t,” Banes tells mewhen I ask his official stance on the subject. “I have a mom and dad but I wouldn’t care if I had two moms or two dads. I think that’s cool.”

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