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The Grace Lee Project cover photo

The Grace Lee Project 2005


Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Grace Lee
Directed by Grace Lee
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
American Studies, Biography, Gender Studies, Media Studies, Multicultural Studies, Popular Culture, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 09/29/2006

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

As the child of Korean immigrants, documentary filmmaker Grace Lee was always conscious of being different than her Missouri classmates and neighbors. It was only after leaving the Midwest did she discover that she had one of the most common of all Asian-American names. Everywhere she went, someone always knew another Grace Lee. Often remembered as quiet and nice, these other Grace Lee’s seemed to embody a stereotype: the model minority female. The author of this short, humorous essay decides to locate some of the other Grace’s to find out if her name determines her identity.

To get a picture of what it means to be a Grace Lee, women from all over the United States and other parts of the world were contacted and interviewed. While some of the women fit the stereotype of the Super-Asian, many did not. Grace Lee Boggs, for example, is a Detroit activist; others Grace’s include a pastor’s wife, a Hawaiian TV reporter, a giggling teen-ager, a single-mother abused by her Caucasian adopted parents and a reformed bad girl who tried to burn down her high school. In the end, none of the women feels defined by her name or the stereotype that’s frequently associated with it. While a name may not be unique, those who carry it certainly are.

Narrated by the director, the documentary entertainingly combines first-person interviews with some animation and graphics. While the subtext of ethnicity, assimilation and cultural expectations is a serious one, the tone is light and often funny. The results of the Internet survey created to gather data for the project can be found on the film’s web site. Recommended.