If you were to watch films from ten years ago, you would notice little to no representation of Asian American and Pacific Islander in films made and/or distributed in the United States. Apart from Studio Ghibli or martial arts films, Asian media was not mainstream. As film studios begin to pay more attention to ethnic diversity, Asian American films are becoming mainstream and anime, which was once a niche genre, has been mainstreamed as well. Here are five films to celebrate not only the increased visibility of AAPI-heritage actors and directors, but the wider range of stories and characters available for viewers to enjoy.
Written and directed by Lee Issac Chung, Minari is an autobiographical movie about a South Korean family who immigrated to the rural United States in the 1980s to start a farm, which is the dream of its patriarch, Jacob. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. In addition to well-choreographed action sequences featuring both men and women fighters, the film has magical beasts. And though in some ways it is a typical hero’s journey, the complex family and community relationships in the story go further than many prior films in challenging stereotypes.
Set in modern times, the movie follows Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nick Young who return to Nick’s home country of Singapore for his best friend’s marriage. While in Singapore, Rachel’s Chinese-American heritage is scrutinized by Nick’s old-Chinese thinking.
An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.
After discovering a Yeti on the roof of her apartment building, teenage Yi and her two friends embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family. But to do so, they must stay one step ahead of a wealthy financier and a determined zoologist who wants to capture the beast for their own gain.
Do you have a favorite recent film featuring Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander actors, stories, or characters? Let us know in the comments, and if you are so inclined, please share why it is appealing and/or important to you! RW
Student blogger Richard Wu began working in Media Services in 2021. Richard is a pianist, and his focus at Indiana University is music. This is his second Media Beat blog post.