Monday, April 22

All eyes on Lee

Up-and-coming filmmaker showcases

MICHAEL TOBEY/Daily Bruin Grace Lee, a directing student at the
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, is currently working
on her new film, "The Grace Lee Project."

By Mayra Marquez


[email protected]

Tearing down the once male-dominated barriers of filmmaking,
women are quickly climbing the ranks and standing with the best of

Grace Lee, a directing student in the UCLA School of Theater,
Film and Television, confirms that she too can be successful and
holds a growing list of accomplishments to prove it.

Although she only took up film just prior to attending graduate
school, Lee’s films have already screened at festivals such
as Cannes, Women in the Director’s Chair, Films de Femmes,
Krakow and Urban World. Lee was introduced to filmmaking when,
after her undergraduate studies, she traveled to Korea to learn the
language, but ended up making a documentary about Korean
prostitutes around American military bases.

“I had always been interested in stories and writing about
people, but it wasn’t until I made that documentary that I
realized that the visual medium was something that was much more
visceral,” Lee said. “It was through that medium that I
felt it would be the most appropriate for the stuff I wanted to

Currently, “Barrier Device,” a film directed and
written by Lee, is getting much attention from the film community.
“Barrier Device” is about a psychology researcher
caught off guard while conducting a study on female condoms. In
doing her study, she finds out that one of her subjects is seeing
her ex. In an attempt to maintain professionalism, she must then
battle against keeping her emotions from interfering with her
research and the subject’s trust.

Photo courtesy of Grace Lee Suzy Nakamura and Sandra Oh star in
Grace Lee’s film, "Barrier Device," which will be shown at the
Tribeca Film Festival in New York next week.

“I was interested in the complexity of female
relationships and the female friendship,” Lee said. “It
was exploring an awkward situation and exploring a character
through that context.”

In the film, Sandra Oh, star of the HBO series
“Arli$$,” plays the researcher Audrey, and Suzy
Nakamura from “The Hank Azaria Show” plays Serena, the
subject that throws Audrey off balance.

“I really liked the story. My worry was that she had two
well-known actresses and I had never worked with anyone like that
before,” co-producer and UCLA producing student Rosie Wang
said. “Part of my job is to make sure everybody’s happy
and I was worried we wouldn’t make them feel taken care of,
but it ended up wonderfully.”

The film premiered at the 2002 San Francisco Asian American Film
Festival and will be shown next week at the Tribeca Film Festival
in New York.

The festival, founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal,
works to provide a stimulating arena for the New York film
community. It will also be screened at the “UCLA Festival
2002: A Showcase of Student Work” in June. “Barrier
Device” has also currently moved up to the national
competition of the Student Academy Awards, which are presented in

Another accomplishment of the film lies in its mainly
female-dominated team, a partnership not too commonly seen in the
film community.

“All the key positions ““ director, producers,
cinematographer and assistant director ““ were all women. It
was an almost exclusive female crew and it was empowering,”
Wang said.

Lee’s collaboration with the other women that worked on
this film began with friendships formed at UCLA. Co-producer
Caroline Libresco, graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and
Television is also a part of that team.

“There’s a lot of sexism in film. Most directors are
men, most producers are men and the people that pull the strings
are usually men,” Libresco said. “We have to stick
together to get our voices heard.”

According to Lee, with each new film she continues to challenge
herself and try new things. While “Barrier Device”
draws from both dramatic and comedic elements, Lee’s next
film, “The Grace Lee Project,” takes a more humorous
look into the Asian- American phenomenon behind the name Grace

“For me it’s a way to look at stereotypes of
Asian-American women but also it’s just poking fun at the
stereotypes as well,” Lee said.

The film will be a documentary about people all around the world
with the name Grace Lee. Filming has just started for the project
and Lee is currently looking for more Grace Lees to take part in
the production. Grace Lees, and even friends of Grace Lees are
encouraged to login onto Lee’s web site at
and fill out a survey asking how being or knowing a Grace Lee has
impacted their lives.

For Lee the filmmaker, not the radical Marxist community
organizer or the Korean lesbian activist featured in “The
Grace Lee Project,” filmmaking will continue to play a
growing role in her life.

“I came into filmmaking relatively late compared to George
Lucas-type people who started making films at age 8. I was
thinking, “˜I’m just going to pursue it and see what
it’s like,’” Lee said.

“I’ve always started these things until I’ve
gotten bored with them and I haven’t gotten bored. It’s
constantly a challenge. I hope in 5-10 years I’ll be making
the kind of films that matter to me still. I feel like I’ve
been lucky to do that while in film school and I hope I can
continue to do that whether it’s documentaries, or features
or who knows, television,” Lee added.

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