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Catfish in Black Bean Sauce
Directed byChi Muoi Lo
Produced byChi Muoi Lo
Written byChi Muoi Lo
StarringChi Muoi Lo
Paul Winfield
Sanaa Lathan
Mary Alice
Music byStanley A. Smith
CinematographyRudy M. Fenenga, Jr.
Dean Lent
Edited byDawn Hoggatt
Distributed byBlack Hawk Entertainment
Release date
Running time
119 minutes
CountryUnited States

Catfish in Black Bean Sauce is a 1999 comedy-drama film about a Vietnamese brother and sister raised by an African American couple. The film stars Chi Muoi Lo, Paul Winfield, Sanaa Lathan, and Mary Alice.


Dwayne, Dolores and Harold play a game of cards with Dolores trying to convince Dwayne to take a cat Harold found on the way home. Dwayne thinks there is something wrong with the cat and refuses. One afternoon, Dwayne is in his living room with his girlfriend Nina and excuses himself. He grabs a small red box, a rose and some champagne. When he returns to the living room, however, he finds his roommate, Michael and his new transgender girlfriend waiting there. He puts the ring away as he and Nina head to Dwayne's parents' house for a barbecue.

On the way over, Dwayne fails to stop for a stop sign and is pulled over by a cop who asks him to step out of the car. He spots the ring and tells Dwayne that Nina is out of his league and to enjoy it while it lasts, which makes Dwayne question the relationship. At the barbecue, Dwayne proposes to Nina offhandedly. She says yes just as Mai walks in. Mai lets the family know she has located their birth mother, Thanh, and she is flying her to Los Angeles. Dolores takes the news hard and worries she'll be replaced, Harold is optimistic and Dwayne pretends to be indifferent.

There is a brief flashback to when Mai was young and she yells at Dolores saying 'you're not my mother' and runs to hug Harold. At the airport, Mai cries when she sees her mother, while Dwayne has no reaction. They sit down for a family dinner and Dolores feels like she is being replaced. As everyone leaves, Thanh demands to go with Dwayne/Sap despite the preparations Mai has made at her house.

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Thanh worries about Dwayne and does not think Nina is the right girl for him and tells Mai. Nina goes to Mai's for lunch, during which Mai tells her that she ought to be more affectionate with Dwayne, but Nina feels she has been affectionate enough. Harold's birthday arrives and no one shows up for the party. Dolores has a fit and blames it on Thanh's arrival. Harold gets frustrated and has a heart attack. Mai rushes to the hospital to meet Dolores, where they have a fight. When the doctor says that Harold will be okay, Dolores tries to apologize, but Mai leaves telling her to spend time with Harold.

The next day, Dwayne calls to Dolores and she is upset that he was not there. Wanting to be more affectionate, Nina prepares a big dinner for the two of them. Dwayne arrives and suggests they break up. Finally, there is an all out war with everyone: Thanh and Dolores, Nina and Dwayne, Samantha and Michael ending when Michael's girlfriend lifts Dolores and Thanh in the air to separate them.

The next day, Mai comes over to help with Harold's food. Dolores says she does not need help, but Mai goes in to hug her. Mai realizes that Dolores has been more of a mother and treated her far better than Thanh. Over a game of Monopoly, Dwayne, Mai, Dolores and Harold discuss that Dwayne has broken up with Nina. Everyone thinks he is stupid because she loves him. Mai says that Nina has accepted a job in New York City. Dwayne realizes he made a mistake and everyone finally gets along. The movie ends with a big family dinner with Dolores and Thanh nodding in understanding and playing Monopoly.

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  • Chi Muoi Lo as Dwayne Williams/Sap
  • Sanaa Lathan as Nina
  • Paul Winfield as Harold Williams
  • Mary Alice as Dolores Williams
  • Lauren Tom as Mai
  • Kieu Chinh as Thanh
  • Tyler Christopher as Michael
  • Tzi Ma as Vinh
  • George Wallace as James
  • Wing Chen as Samantha
  • Amy Tran as Young Mai
  • Kevin Lo as Young Dwayne/Sap
  • Kevin D’Arcy as Guard 1
  • Andre Rosey Brown: Guard 2
  • Ron Galbraith as Doctor
  • Calvin Nguyen as Teacher
  • Richard F. Whiten as Motorcycle Cop
  • Lalanya Master as Bank Teller
  • Mark Daniel Cade as Assistant Bank Manager
  • Jedda Jones as Agnes
  • Roxanne Reese as Nadine
  • Saachiko Magwili as Mother
  • William Thomas as Douglas
  • April Tran as Interpreter
  • Thomas Ryan as Lt. Davis
  • Carol Kiernan as Nurse
  • Thu Hong: Opera Singer
  • Ho Lo as Man at Airport
  • Vien Hong as Transvestite


The film has received mixed reviews. A Los Angeles Times review noted that as the film's writer/director/actor Chi Muoi Lo 'spread himself too thin, resulting in an uneven picture but one that has plenty of substance and emotion'.[1]Roger Ebert wrote that the film was 'a first draft for a movie that could have been extraordinary'.[2] The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the film was 'a comedy of interracial wariness and misunderstanding marked by a refreshing lack of sappiness'.[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2001First Americans in the Arts AwardsWonOutstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Film)Tyler Christopher
1999Florida Film FestivalWonBest Narrative FeatureChi Muoi Lo
Best Narrative FeatureChi Muoi Lo
2001Political Film SocietyNominatedExposé
1999WorldFest-Houston International Film FestivalWonTheatrical Feature Films - 004Chi Muoi Lo


  1. ^'Catfish in Black Bean Sauce'. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  2. ^Ebert, Roger (2000-07-28). 'Catfish In Black Bean Sauce'. The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  3. ^Catfish in Black Bean Sauce at metacritic

External links[edit]

  • Catfish In Black Bean Sauce on IMDb
  • Catfish in Black Bean Sauce at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Catfish in Black Bean Sauce at AllMovie
Retrieved from ''
In Catfish In Black Bean Sauce, Paul Winfield and Mary Alice play an African-American couple who in the 1970's adopted two Vietnamese children, a brother and sister. 20 years on, the two kids have grown to adulthood; Dwayne (Chi Muoi Lo) has absorbed a great deal of black culture from his adopted parents and is engaged to an attractive African-American woman (Sanaa Lathan). His sister (Lauren Tom), however, feels more comfortable with Asian cultural paths and has married an older Asian man (Tzi Ma). The siblings have recently come in contact with their birth mother (Kieu Chinh), and are awaiting her first visit to the United States, which causes no small amount of personal, cultural and familial clashes. Catfish In Black Bean Sauce is the feature debut from writer/director Chi Muoi Lo, who also plays Dwane; it was a prize winner at the 1999 WorldFest/Houston Film Festival.