Inspired by the life of Bessie M. Lee (1894 - 1955), who, after migrating to New York City, spent two years in indentured servitude, “Light” is a film in which dance, memory, music and poetry collide in a visual and aural landscape; a meditation on women being propelled into the unknown by courage and faith to risk their lives and everything they have for freedom. In “Light”, Aoki and Lee highlight the lives of women including Lee, who through the resilience and triumph over unimaginable experiences were grounding forces in the creation of the New York Chinatown community in the early 1900s.
Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki's film brilliantly documents as a dance narrative events in Bessie Lee's life as a domestic servant in New York's Chinatown. "Light" features a marvelous film score by members of Asian Improv Arts based in San Francisco including Francis Wong. Lenora's conception for the film stemmed from her work as a Fellow at NYU several years ago. The talkback, with David Henry Hwang, Karen Shimakawa of NYU, Lenora, Tatsu, and Bessie Lee's grandson, Larry Lee, who heads a NYC-based organization (Womankind) that helps survivors of gender-based violence, was fascinating and enjoyed a lively discussion with the audience. During their residency at Columbia, Lee and Aoki also visited two classes: Kevin Fellezs's IRAAS class on African American Music and Ana Paulina Lee's LAIC graduate seminar titled Mapping Asian/Americas Art. The film was named the Best Experimental Film by the Canada International Film Festival, and also has been shown this year in California, Oregon, Illinois, and Minnesota.
Discussants: David Henry Hwang, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts in the Faculty of the Arts, Columbia University and Karen Shimakawa, Associate Professor, Performance Studies, New York University