Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story Screens at Rhode Island International Film Festival on 8/8 by Lia Chang

Wat Misaka

Wat Misaka

Wataru “Wat” Misaka is the first person of color, as well as the first person of Asian descent, drafted into what is now the National Basketball Association (NBA). More than half a century before the Dallas Mavericks drafted China’s Wang Zhizhi in 1999, the New York Knicks drafted Mr. Misaka in the first round. In honor of his accomplishments as a pioneer in the world of sports, the Rhode Island International Film Festival presents Wat with the Roger Williams Independent Spirit Award.
Wat Misaka

Wat Misaka

A Nissei-American who was born, raised, and is still living in Utah, Wat was the very first draft pick of the New York Knicks, in 1947. Overcoming the national political climate during World War II, Wat was a star player for the University of Utah 1944 and 1947 championship teams, taking 2 years off in between to serve in the U.S. Army. His perseverance and loyalty to his teammates, other Nissei friends (including those interned at the Topaz camp) and his family are a testament to the unflappable Japanese American spirit.

Wat, a 5-foot 7-inch guard, appeared in three games and scored seven points for the 1947-48 Knicks before he was cut for reasons never made clear to him. But he recalls his brief stint in the NBA as a pleasant one. He turned down an offer to play for the Harlem Globetrotters so that he could return to school to earn a degree in engineering.

This is the inaugural year for RIIFF’s Roger Williams Independent Spirit Award, which recognizes an individual whose work reflects the values – freedom, equality, and tolerance – associated with Rhode Island founder, Roger Williams.

Christine Toy Johnson and Bruce Alan Johnson (Photo by Lia Chang)

Christine Toy Johnson and Bruce Alan Johnson (Photo by Lia Chang)


The award will be presented on Saturday, August 8th at 5:00 p.m. at the Columbus Theatre Arts Center, 270 Broadway, Providence, RI. at the festival screening of the acclaimed documentary film TRANSCENDING – THE WAT MISAKA STORY, directed by Christine Toy Johnson and Bruce Alan Johnson.

The film includes in depth interviews with Wat and his family, teammates from his championship teams (including All-American star Arnie Ferrin of the Minneapolis Lakers) sports authorities (including Knicks Historian Dennis D’Agostino and ubiquitous New York sportscaster Spencer Ross), and many who continue to look up to him as both a role model and personal hero. The film also has video clips from his 1944 and 1947 college games, rare footage from a visit to the Topaz Internment Camp, and countless photos of his triumphant career.

Directed by award winning filmmakers Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson, TRANSCENDING – THE WAT MISAKA STORY was given two consecutive grants from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. The film has won the “Gold Kahuna Award” from the Honolulu International Film Festival and the “Emerging Eye Directorial Discovery Award” from the Roving Eye Documentary Film Festival, which took place at Roger Williams College in April. For more information, visit www.watmisaka.com.

Meet Wat Misaka and filmmakers Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson who will have a Q & A after the screening.

Festival tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Columbus Theatre Arts Center, or at the RIIFF office located at 268 Broadway in Providence.

Saturday, August 8, 2009 at 5 p.m.
Columbus Theatre Arts Center
270 Broadway
Providence, RI 02903
401.621.9660
www.columbustheatre.com
Tickets are $10.00 and can be purchased at all venues and at the RIIFF office.

Here is a link to the Advance Ticket Order Form:

The Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) Office is located at:
268 Broadway, Providence, RI. 02903
401.861.4445 (f) 401.490.6735
info@film-festival.org
www.rifilmfest.org

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