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Joan Bauer’s Hope Was Here is getting a film adaptation

The VOICE Creative and Slew Pictures announced the acquisition of feature film development rights to award-winning author Joan Bauer’s Newbery honored bestselling novel, Hope Was Here. Golden Bell Award nominee Jackol Kao (Netflix Series’ Green Door), Independent Spirit Award Producer nominee Derrick Tseng (Joe), and Gotham Award nominee and Urbanworld Grand Jury winner Bertha Bay-Sa Pan (Face) will produce the film with the same title, Hope Was Here. Pan will direct from a screenplay written by Bauer. Casting will begin this spring, with a shoot planned for Summer 2022.

Pan and Tseng first collaborated on the intergenerational drama about a Chinese American teenager in New York City, Face, which premiered twenty years ago in dramatic competition at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. The Hollywood Reporter critic Kirk Honeycutt called the film, “Luminous,” adding “Pan’s actors are exceptional… with a vibrant hip hop score and atmospheric cinematography.” Pan directed the feature, starring Kristy Wu, Bai Ling, Treach, Kieu Chinh, Will Yun Lee and Ken Leung from a screenplay she co-wrote with Oscar nominated writer Oren Moverman (The Messenger). Tseng was a co-producer on the film. Face was nominated for the Gotham’s Open Palm Award, won the Audience Award at the GenArt Film Festival and Critics Award-Special Mention at the CineVegas International Film Festival. Pan won Best Director at Urbanworld Film Festival. Face was developed from Pan’s award-winning Columbia University graduate thesis short film. Hope Was Here will mark their fourth collaboration, following Face, Fighting Fish and Almost Perfect.

Hope Was Here is the story of Hope, a 16-year-old waitress who is no stranger to hardships, heartaches, and betrayal. With her aunt Addie, comfort food chef extraordinaire, she’s moved too much, but always hones her waitressing skills, impressing hungry people everywhere. After losing their restaurant in Brooklyn, Hope and Addie leave the city they love to run a diner in rural Wisconsin. They find themselves in a town divided with real problems and corrupt politics. Hope’s waitressing has taught her to read people and instinct tells her to trust GT Stoop, the owner of the Welcome Stairways Diner, who has just ended chemo treatment for cancer by announcing that he’s running for mayor. It’s a campaign between hope and fear as the teenagers in town have had enough and join the fight. Even without the right to vote at their young age, they have learned they have a voice and what they believe in matters. Hope meets dirty-tricks-politics and the pain of her past head-on in this story about honor, trust, and serving up your very best.

Director Bertha Bay-Sa Pan said, “I am thrilled to collaborate with this team of veteran creatives who share the vision of Hope Was Here — the journey of a 16-year-old who is no stranger to hardships and heartaches, yet through humor and heart (and hearty comfort food!), experience hope that arises amidst all the brokenness. Young people everywhere should be encouraged to educate themselves by listening and learning despite differences and speaking up for what’s right. We hope this film will inspire them to do so.”

Writer Joan Bauer added, “‘When hope gets released in a place, anything is possible.’ That’s a quote from Hope Was Here. I’ve always believed it and it’s one of the reasons I love Hope Yancey the 16-year-old protagonist of the story — this courageous girl who wears her name like a flag. It’s also why I’m so honored to be working with Bertha Pan and Derrick Tseng, to bring Hope Was Here to the screen. I loved their movie Face — the real hope in that story was present in the toughest, most heartbreaking moments.”

New York Times Bestselling novel, Hope Was Here, written in 2000 by award-winning author Joan Bauer, has been translated in 11 countries including Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Turkey and, in a rare diplomatic partnership, the U.S. State Department co-sponsored the Russian language edition of Hope Was Here in 2009. The novel is the recipient of the Newbery Honor, an honor that recognizes distinguished contributions to American literature for children; a Christopher Award, given to an author that’s work affirms the highest values of the human spirit; and, was named one of the best books for young adults by the American Library Association (ALA best Books for Young Adults).

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