Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month has many film lovers seeking to celebrate Asian American cinema. Beyond Minari, Always Be My Maybe and Crazy Rich Asians, there are dozens of films that depict the Asian American experience. In choosing to focus on ten of the lesser-seen, I contemplated the notion of what defines AAPI cinema.
For me, it goes deeper than films that have been directed by, or star, Asian American and Pacific artists. Having watched a wide selection of Asian American films, I can firmly say our cinema, no matter the genre, puts Asian Americans at the forefront on both sides of the camera. I believe the essence of Asian American cinema was born out of resourcefulness, mining themes and ideas that distinctly bridge the gap between Asian and American culture. These films tell stories that explore the vast differences between the two, and the ways in which they coexist, whether comfortably or uncomfortably.
In selecting these ten underrated AAPI films, I searched deep to find stories with uncompromising vision and character; stories about Asians that could only be told within, and against the backdrop of, America. These ten films highlight intimate, distinct and unfiltered experiences mostly unseen at our local multiplexes: family and cultural obligations, generational and cultural gaps, and raw, mostly obscured views of American life.