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Asian American
Experimental Film
Immigration and Exile

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A film by Helen Lee
Canada/Korea, 2000, 22 minutes, Color, 35mm/DVD
Order No. W01721
SUBROSA traces a young woman's journey to Korea, the land of her birth, to find the mother she's never known. This exquisitely crafted drama probes the idealized, often false constructions of cultural and maternal identities wrought by the adoptee's return. SUBROSA tracks the unnamed heroine from a sterile adoption agency office to seedy bars and motel rooms on neon strips, then to a stark U.S. army camp town and the bustling flower markets of Seoul. Though her path to self-destruction and ultimate self-revelation ironically and tragically mirrors that of her imagined biological mother, the past remains elusive to her, the secret intact. Originally shot on digital video, the film captures the grit and garishness of an alien urban landscape while plumbing the melancholy dream space where the character retreats even as she searches for her very life. Brimming with surreal, breathtaking, elegiac imagery, this sensuously rendered tale of loss, love and longing resonates long after its shocking conclusion.


  • Toronto International Film Festival
  • Feminale Women's Film Festival, Cologne, Germany
  • WYBE Through the Lens Series

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    "Moves beyond easy ideas about cultural identity to express an almost existential longing, capturing the senses of desire, uncertainty, desperation and salvation with a wondrous luminosity."
    Laura U. Marks
    Assistant Professor, Carleton University

    "Depicts with great artistry the profound loneliness of the Korean adoptee's search for her irretrievable origins. A compelling and unforgettable film."
    Elaine Kim
    Asian American Studies, UC-Berkeley

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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us