The Sensei
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The Sensei

USA, 2007, 103 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Activism, AIDS / HIV, Asian / Pacific Islander, Coming Out, Death / Dying, Discrimination, Drama, Gay, Homophobia, Parenting / Family, Sci-Fi / Horror / Fantasy, Sports, Violence, Youth
Program: U.S. Features
Language: English

DIRECTOR: D. Lee Inosanto

Set in a conservative Colorado hamlet during the mid’80s, The Sensei is an ambitious, genre-bending indie feature that touches on AIDS hysteria, religious intolerance, misogyny, racism and homophobia — all woven together with plenty of ass-kicking martial arts.
McClain (whose story echoes Matthew Shepard’s) is a high school student ostracized and tormented for being gay. His community is gripped by fear and hate, and the general consensus is that AIDS is a punishment for a sinful, gay lifestyle. After McClain is severely beaten by classmates, he forms an unlikely bond with Karen, a martial arts expert who secretly becomes his sensei and teaches McClain how to defend himself.
All assumptions are questioned as the story twists through Karen’s and McClain’s past. And, perhaps controversially, while McClain is explicitly being taught to defend himself, we get to see the tables turned and violence being fought off with violence. True to the film’s martial arts roots, questions of honor and the plight of the defenseless are at the heart of the film and explored from many perspectives.
The Sensei was written and directed by veteran stunt-actress and martial artist D. Lee Inosanto, who also stars as Karen and who has crafted a story meant to clearly connect the multiple forms of bigotry that continue to plague our culture.

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