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This understated short beautifully observes the little moments of longing, fear and love that a gay man feels, torn between his partner and his family, yet it achieves much more.
Dol (First Birthday) from Andrew Ahn on Vimeo.
Nick, a Korean-American man, leaves his boyfriend at home with their dog to go to his baby nephew’s ‘dol’, a traditional celebration of a child’s first birthday. We see the pain he feels in keeping his own life separate from that of his family and his yearning for one of his own.
Unusually, and wonderfully, the filmmaker behind the film, Andrew Ahn, casts his own family in the short, not telling them about the subject matter and used it as a coming out letter. It just so happened that this letter went to the Sundance Film Festival. On his website he writes,
“I hoped that showing my parents a film about a gay Korean-American man would help them understand me. I wanted to use the medium of filmmaking to tell them a story, not just say the words “I’m gay.” And hopefully the story would better articulate who I am and what I am dealing with: that I struggle with my gay and Korean identities, that I wish I could have a family the way my father had a family, and that despite all this, I am a proud gay man.”
It plays much like a family video that lets us look in on a series of moments that go from frustration, to yearning and, at the film’s close, to heartbreaking affection. Without melodrama or preaching, Ahn depicts both the anxiety and importance of coming out through the act itself. Skipping deftly and with nuance between themes of obligation, isolation and identity he shows his family and the world who he is and who he loves. And boy, that ending…