Grace Lee Discusses Film, Asian-American Identity

Independent producer, director and writer Grace Lee took the Amphitheater stage at Chautauqua Institution accompanied by film critic Ann Hornaday who gave a lecture on Wednesday. The lecture was tailored to Chautuqua’s theme of “Documentary Film as Facilitator: Storytelling, Influence and Civil Discourse.” P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

CHAUTAUQUA — Grace Lee, independent producer, director and writer, visited Chautauqua Institution where she discussed her filmmaking style and its impact.

“Thank you all for coming on this last day,” Lee said. “It’s a huge honor.”

Lee was joined by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic, who gave a lecture on the same stage on Wednesday.

Lee directed the documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.” The film was a 2014 Peabody Award winner and was described by The Hollywood Reporter as being “an entertainingly revealing portrait of the power of a single individual to effect change.”

The same film won six audience awards at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Another film she directed called “The Grace Lee Project” that won numerous awards and was where she met the Grace Lee Boggs, the star of the project “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.”

The audience at the Chautauqua Institution listen in the Amphitheater as Grace Lee leads the discussion.

Lee treated the audience to various clips from her past documentaries and even a clip from one she is currently working on.

Lee’s first feature length documentary was “The Grace Lee Project,” where she tracked down other Asian individuals with the name Grace Lee with the purpose of questioning stereotypes of Asian women.

“Is it true about what people say about Grace Lee?” she said was the founding question for her film.

She described the film as a “humorous investigation into Asian-American identity.”

Her follow up documentary about Boggs focused on Boggs’ background in civil rights.

In much of the clips she showed off, humor played a huge role.

“It’s not intentional,” she said. “I think it’s just my approach.”

She explained while the topics of her films are serious, the humor utilized disarms her viewers and makes for a better experience.

Hornaday described one of Lee’s clips that was played as being “intimate” and how that impacted the scenes. Hornaday also highlighted how Lee will appear in her documentaries alongside the people the film is portraying and simultaneously experiencing the environment as they do.

“For me, it’s a form of expression,” she said of her filmmaking style.