By Allison Lyzenga, My Film Habit
Macho Like Me
What an amazing show! The D.C. APA Film Festival is definitely one of my favorites because it always manages to get its hands on the best new material out there. This evening’s hybrid show format was a pretty unique experience for me. Filmmaker Helie Lee performed live to narrate her 6-month journey trying to pass as a man in LA’s Koreatown. And she documents this change with a series of film clips that accompany her original script.
It’s a relatively simple format, but the impact of the show is really forceful. It’s an emotional roller-coaster that I think both the women and the men in the audience can enjoy and appreciate. Discouraged by the different set of expectations her traditional Korean parents have for her as a woman, and the seemingly preferential treatment men receive from society in general, Lee decides to try to live as a man for a while to see if they really do have is as easy as she imagines.
This is a pretty ambitious goal to start with, but Helie doesn’t imaging just how hard it will be to convincingly pass as male. Her big smile, easy laugh, and graceful gestures give her away every time. And that’s not even factoring in her delicate, feminine voice and proclivity for a hugging.
Even when she successfully masters the proper body language and learns to keep her mouth shut, she runs into a string of difficulties as she unwittingly breaks one cardinal rule of manhood after another–like making too much eye contact, or getting her feelings too easily hurt by a little good-natured rough-housing.
Helie Lee’s show is fascinating, and I’m pretty sure not just for the women in the audience. In fact, during the Q&A session, most of the questions came from men in the audience. But, of course, this story is told from a woman’s point of view, and is mostly about the surprising things she learned about men and the way they interact with each other that she never really knew or thought about before.
So the performance does have a remarkably feminine quality as it tracks the dramatic emotional ups and downs of this experience. But, I think it’s message about really examining the pretty commonly-held stereotypes men and women hold of each other makes this show universally appealing.
More coverage: Allison on short films Three Times Me and I’m Not Even That on My Film Habit.