Two Lies (1990)

Two Lies (1990)
(25min) 16mm, b/w, sound
Directors: Pamela Tom
Grant Awarded to Pamela Tom
Archive: UCLA Film & Television Archive


Doris Chu, a recently divorced Chinese American woman, has plastic surgery to make her eyes appear rounder. From her teenage daughter Mei’s perspective, her mother’s “two eyes” equal “two lies.” When the family journeys to a desert resort during Doris’s recuperation, a series of revelations and bitter confrontations erupt.

Combining elements of a road movie, film noir, and family drama, the film was described as having the “resonances of American independent filmmaking…offering alternative ways to approach questions of racial, sexual, and cultural difference.”

Set against the backdrop of a stark desert landscape, this powerful black and white drama explores issues of race, beauty, cultural betrayal and appropriation, and inter-generational conflict. Praised for its powerful black and white photography and haunting images, it’s been described by critics as “emotionally complex, witty, troubling, provocative, stark, and with a subtle sort of brilliance.” Carolyn James of the NYT said about the film’s director, “Clearly a filmmaker who is fearless about putting a personal vision on screen.Two Lies has been used for Asian American, Cinema, and Women Studies departments throughout the U.S for educational classroom instruction and research for over 30 years.

Pamela Tom is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker whose films often explore the Asian American experience. Her work has appeared on PBS, Criterion Channel, Showtime, and at Sundance, Telluride, and New Directors/New Films. Her documentary, Tyrus, about artist and Disney Legend, Tyrus Wong, had its broadcast premiere on the 2017 Emmy-Nominated season of PBS’s American Masters series. Her film, Finding Home: A Foster Youth Story, about four foster teens as they transition out of foster care, premiered on PBS and won a 2019 Los Angeles Emmy. She’s a member of the TV Academy, Film Fatales, A-Doc and BGDM.

SALA IWAMATSU: Sala is the daughter of legendary actor Mako and Shizuko Hoshi and performed with them starting as a child at the Los Angeles Asian American theater company East-West Players. After attending UCLA and CalArts, she appeared on Broadway in Miss Saigon, Avenue Q, and RENT. Across the country, she appeared in a number of productions of acclaimed Asian American playwright Philip Kan Gotanda works, including The Ballad of Yachiyo at the Public Theater, and in regional productions of that show, After the War, and Sisters Matsumoto. Sala appeared in the Delaware Theater Co.’s production of Diana Son’s Stop Kiss. Internationally, she was in the Singaporian musical adaptation of the Minfong Ho novel Sing to the Dawn. 

DIAN KOBAYASHI: Dian is a 3rd generation Japanese American (Sansei) actor born and raised in Hilo, HI. She’s performed for dozens of theaters across the country, including Pan Asian Rep (New York), Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles), A.C.T. (San Francisco), Public Theatre (New York), Seattle Rep, and in dozens of productions at East West Players (Los Angeles), where she was mentored and directed by the legendary actor, Mako, in A Song for A Nisei Fisherman, among many other productions. She’s been a guest artist at UCLA and a participant in the Sundance Theatre Lab. Her T.V. and film credits include: The William Coit Story, Donor Unknown, Baby M, California Dreams, Dynasty, General Hospital, Moving, Sibling Rivalry, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and Drinking Tea.