Taking on some very tough subjects---racism, homophobia, social phobias, and bullying, "The Sensei" is a beautiful film. It looks at the way things were in the 1980's when the AIDS epidemic was in high gear and we all lived in fear. Director Diana Lee Inosanto has a very strong message to relay to us and she does so with style and grace. The film is set in 1985 in Colorado. McClain Evans is a young gay teen who is constantly tormented. Karen O'Neil, who has been gone for five years has returned to the town but she is still haunted by the death of the man she was to marry, a pro-boxer, Mark Corey. We assume that Karen has come back so that she can be with her family who own a martial arts workplace and are active in their church. Evans is sent to the hospital after a severe beating which almost killed him and the three teens that were responsible are taken in but released on bail. Evans's mother Annie asks Karen to help her son by teaching him, secretly, how to defend himself. Karen agrees to do so but keeps the entire business under wraps because of the mentality of the small town and the reaction of her parent's church. She teaches the boy at night so that he can protect himself and so that she can do the same. Evans learns quickly and soon is able to ignore the prejudice and ignorance of his town and he becomes confident--so much so that he steps in when a classmate is bullied. Because the confrontation is public, word is out that Karen was his teacher and this rocks the community and there are other surprises as well. The movie is somewhat unconventional in the way it is shown to us--basically as a conversation between Evans and his minister. Because of this film we are allowed to have a good look at small town life, how hate comes about and how it is eliminated by the forces of humanity.