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Hello, My Name is Grace Lee

By Tamara Krinsky

When trying to define oneself, sometimes one of the most useful things to do is look out at the world and see what's reflected back. Director Grace Lee (Barrier Device) had the opportunity to explore multiple versions of herself while shooting The Grace Lee Project.

The name "Grace Lee" is the quintessential Asian-American woman's name, basically the Asian-American "Jane Smith." After hearing her whole life about other Grace Lees who were usually described as "smart, quiet and musically gifted," Lee interviewed a number of them in an attempt to figure out why she did not fit into this stereotype.

"I initially became intrigued by people's descriptions of Grace Lee because I felt I did not live up to the Grace Lee brand, that I was the only loser in a sorority of super Asians," says Lee. "Now that I've met so many Grace Lees of every different stripe, I realize my ability to judge or label them has disappeared. Actually, it is interesting to see the different stages of how I dealt with the name and the stereotype in the process of making this film: Denial...bargaining...anger...acceptance. I would say now, I've reached a level of Grace Lee enlightenment or nirvana about it!"

The charming film incorporates Lee's sense of humor, utilizing animation, graphics and other non-traditional documentary elements in the storytelling. One of the biggest challenges for Lee with this film was figuring out how much of herself to include in the story. "It's hard not to seem like a total narcissist when you're making a film called The Grace Lee Project," Lee jokes. Ultimately, she realized that she needed to include her own story, as she is the lens through which the viewer gains access to what it means to be a Grace Lee among other Grace Lees.


The Grace Lee Project opens at the Film Forum in New York City on December 14, 2005. For more information about the film, go to

Tamara Krinsky is associate editor of Documentary magazine.