News / Arts & Entertainment

Sundance Film Short Explores Homosexuality in the Korean-American Community

Filmmaker Andrew Ahn used his film, Dol (First Birthday), as a way to come out to his parents.

In a scene from filmmaker Andrew Ahn’s short film Dol (First Birthday), a Korean-American family gathers amid traditional dol decorations.
In a scene from filmmaker Andrew Ahn’s short film Dol (First Birthday), a Korean-American family gathers amid traditional dol decorations.

The story behind the new short-film Dol (First Birthday) is packed with enough drama to be turned into a movie of its own.

Dol was Korean-American filmmaker Andrew Ahn’s way of coming out to his parents. He wanted acceptance from his family. He got that and, in the process, had the movie accepted for screening at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prestigious cinema showcases in the world.

The movie, which will be shown at the Utah film festival on January 20, follows Nick, a gay Korean-American man living in Koreatown, Los Angeles with his partner Brian. When Nick attends his nephew's dol, a traditional Korean first birthday party, he finds himself yearning for a life just out of reach.

In an interesting plot twist to the making of Dol, Ahn got his parents to act in the semi-autobiographical film, although he didn’t tell them what it was about. Instead, he told them it was the story of a Korean-American male who was having an “existential crisis.”

“They were totally game,” Ahn said of his parents’ willingness to act in the film. “The fact that they were so game almost made it more heartbreaking for me because I was completely fooling them.”

Ahn said he was “super nervous” before showing his parents the finished reel.

“I got so tense, I almost couldn’t press play,” he said. “They said, ‘Just hit play. We’re going to love it. We’re your parents.’

“When the credits started rolling, my dad said, ‘Oh is that it?’  I knew at that moment they didn’t get it. It was so upsetting to me because this was the whole reason I made this film. I didn’t want to have to verbalize it. I didn’t want to say ‘I’m gay.’”

Ahn said he broke down in tears and finally told his parents.

“If I’d just taken the DVD back to my room, they would have been in total denial,” he said.

Ahn said his relationship with his parents is not easier now that he’s come out of the closet, but he said it’s healthier.

Andrew Ahn
Korean-American filmmaker Andrew Ahn's second work, Dol (First Birthday), has been selected to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

“They think it’s a phase, but that they’re willing to talk about it, which is about as much as I can hope for at this moment,” he said. “It was as if they were getting to know their son again. I was so happy to see that the lines of communication were open. I had a bag packed thinking they were going to kick me out of the house.”

Ahn said the Korean-American community is very conflicted about homosexuality.

“The community is very Christian. Church is a very big part of Korean-American family life. Because of the church you have resistance to homosexuality.” At the same time, he added, there are more Korean-Americans coming out earlier.

Ahn said it’s not only the church that makes homosexuality a difficult topic to address, but that the high value placed on traditional families in the Korean-American community can make coming out even more of a challenge.

“I think it’s because our parents have such high hopes for us. They wanted the American dream. They wanted a family. They wanted to put down roots in America. If you’re gay, it’s a little trickier to have a family, to have grandchildren for your parents.”

Coming out, Anh said would be “tricky and difficult” for his parents to accept. In 2008, his mom encouraged him to vote for California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

“I was so afraid. I really needed something like this film to push me through … to really motivate me to tell them,” he said.

Ahn already had experience delivering surprising news to his parents. While at Brown University, he was studying biology “like a good Korean boy” on his way to medical school, but instead graduated with a degree in English. He later felt his calling was in filmmaking and enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts’ film directing school where he earned an MFA.

His first narrative short, Andy, has screened at numerous festivals and venues around the world, including Slamdance, Outfest, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, REDCAT and MoliseCinema (Italy).

He said he’s already planning two feature-length films, both set in Koreatown.

Six months after coming out to his parents, Ahn was informed that Dol was selected for Sundance. It is one of just 64 shorts selected from almost 8,000 submissions.

“[My parents] were super happy for me,” he said. “They were kind of dumbfounded at first. [My mom] asked if I was going to meet Robert Redford, who she’s had a crush on forever.”

Dol Trailer from Andrew Ahn on Vimeo.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”