The Grace Lee Project Review

Review by Katy

The Grace Lee Project is a humorous but critical documentary film released in 2005 by Grace Lee, who, after moving to Los Angeles, realized that she shared her name with thousands of other Asian-American women. Not only that, but she realized there was also a stereotype tied to her name: that of a quiet, violin-playing, sweet, innocent, Asian-American girl. Grace Lee began to wonder: “Are all Grace Lee’s cut from the same cloth?” and if so, why didn’t she feel that she fit into that mold? In this humorous journey of self-exploration, Grace Lee set out to answer these questions.

She set up a website where other Grace Lees could submit information about themselves, and she traveled to meet with a handful of them, interviewing them all about their roots, name, and perception of themselves. Along the way, she met a 14-year-old Lord of the Rings fan named Grace Lee, who makes voodoo dolls in her spare time, the revolutionary Grace Lee Boggs, who was active in the Black Power movement of the 1960s, a deaf mother named Grace Lee who helped her friend escape a violent marriage, and even learned of the attempted arsonist Grace Lee who tried to set fire to her high school after buckling under the pressure of the expectations from being an Asian-American student in San Francisco.

Coupled with sharp wit, there are some deep and introspective moments about the expectations of Asian American women and how those expectations have affected the director’s life. At the end of the film, she asks each Grace Lee what they would like to be remembered for, and the answers are a turn from the stereotypes associated with their names; these women want to be remembered as revolutionaries, motorcyclists, as news reporters, as women with vast interests, and as strong, intelligent women who don’t let their names or their backgrounds define them. Grace Lee finds that she is able to relate to other Grace Lees, but not for the reasons she expected.

Watch The Grace Lee Project on Kanopy now.