A 2022 study by the University of Southern California stated that the percentage of Asian characters with speaking roles leaped from around 3% to nearly 16% between 2007 and 2022. As awards season unfolds, celebrating cinematic achievement – we wanted to spotlight our favorite films that amplify the diverse narrative and experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
One of our favorite movies of all time… in every universe, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a must-see. This film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2023, but beyond the many awards and accolades – this is a heartfelt window into what it looks like to constantly long for intergenerational connection, to find and create purpose in your life, and how love, empathy and kindness are the keepers of healing.
This film is a slow, devastating and beautiful burn. Minari is about the pursuit of the American dream, and the experiences of a Korean-American family. Along with an all-star cast, Steven Yeun, Han Ye-Ri and Youn Yuh-Jung, the performance of newcomer Alan S. Kim, who was 7 years old at the time of filming, completely steals the screen. This film speaks to the sacrifices that immigrant households have to make, but how it is often the hardest of times that show resilience and power of family.
This film is a thoughtful and nuanced portrayal of the life, and name of Gogol. Gogol, played by Kal Penn, explores how his Bengali culture shapes his life, love and ultimately how he chooses to embody and celebrate his heritage. The Namesake deals heavily with grief, and how immigrant families persevere upon loss across generations.
If you love adventure movies, you will adore Finding ‘Ohana. In a hunt for treasure, two siblings are led down an epic path to discovering their Hawaiian heritage. Think The Goonies meets Indiana Jones but with the heart of Hawaiian culture and representation too often misrepresented. Finding ‘Ohana is a quirky, meaningful and delightful film for the whole family to enjoy.
The Night Of
For all fans of true crime and social justice, “The Night Of,” a limited HBO series, offers a nuanced perspective on the experiences of a Pakistani-American caught up in the criminal justice system. Riz Ahmed’s stellar portrayal of Naz Khan echoes real-life cases like the Central Park Five and Adnan Syed’s, shedding light on racial profiling and the flaws within our legal system. A must-watch for its compelling narrative and poignant AAPI representation, “The Night Of” sparks essential conversations on justice and identity.
The Half of It
For those who love heartwarming stories about queer love, young friendship and discovery – The Half of It is for you! We adore this movie’s take on a friendship between a queer Asian high school student and the school jock, while they navigate how they have more in common than they first lead on. This story is a hilariously written interpretation of a Shakespearean play, and is so nostalgically shot.
Bring tissues (lots of them), and be prepared to immediately call your family members right after. The Farewell is about a Chinese-American woman named Billi, portrayed by Awkwafina, who navigates the dynamics of her family in China when her Nai Nai (grandma) is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Everyone in the family knows about Nai Nai’s condition… except Nai Nai. The delicate weaving of cultural values creates a piece that allows us to explore what it means to live a fulfilling life, and how our spirit and hope can be the most powerful tool for our lives.
A cornerstone of queer cinema, Saving Face is a romantic comedy that explores the relationship between a gay Chinese-American woman, her traditionalist mother with her own secrets, her grandparents, and her girlfriend. Through this movie, she learns how to live unapologetically, without fear. Heartfelt, hilarious and triumphant, this movie gives us hope in living authentically in who and how we love.
Imagine you are thriving in New York City, successful and married now. You reflect on how you got here, a young immigrant from Korea who left when you were just a child – leaving behind a whole life and a childhood sweetheart. You find out that this person has been looking for you, hoping to reconnect. What do you do when you are faced with what could have been? This 2024 Oscar Nominated film is a look at fate, and in-yun, and will leave you nostalgic, reflective and wistful.