Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Andrew Ahn comes out to his immigrant parents - in a film

Dol Trailer from Andrew Ahn on Vimeo.

Coming out as gay or lesbian to one's family is a difficult step for most young people to take, but it can be especially so for the children of immigrants, whose cultural or religious beliefs may make them less tolerant. Andrew Ahn, a young Korean American filmmaker from Los Angeles, chose to come out to his parents not by having that difficult conversation, but by making a short film.

KPCC's Off-Ramp with John Rabe featured an interview this weekend with Ahn, whose film "Dol" makes its debut at Sundance this week. Dol is a traditional Korean ritual held for a baby's first birthday, with the baby set among various objects, such as a pencil or paintbrush. From Off-Ramp:

The first object the baby grabs symbolizes his or her future; if he or she picks the pencil, they'll be a scholar, pick a paintbrush? Become an artist. What does this have to do with coming out as a gay man?

"I don't know what item would represent being gay," Ahn joked. He did know he wanted to document a personal moment in the film.

"I saw footage from my own first birthday on an old beta tape," he recalled. "As a gay Korean man, this ritual just seemed really pertinent to where I am in my adulthood, thinking about family -- thinking about the future."

Ahn wanted to use the film to come out to his parents because he couldn't bring himself to broach the topic directly. He filmed his actual parents, aunts and uncles because he knew they'd want to watch.


Things didn't go exactly as planned. The complete Off-Ramp interview can be heard here.

In this video interview shot in recent days in Park City, where the film festival is taking place, Ahn talks about his parents' relative support, acknowledging that it's going to be a long process. He quotes his father: "We're not going to force you to change, but be open-minded."

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