In the U.S., May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month is often used to spotlight the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander people in the U.S. as well as their achievements, heritage and culture. Asians and Pacific Islanders are some of the most diverse groups in the world, boasting an abundance of ethnicities, cultures and languages. In my daily life, I always try to find ways to incorporate education of different things — whether that be the cultural practices or heritages of other groups that I’m unfamiliar with, different kinds of foods and so on. For this article, I’m going to try to put together a good list of authentic Asian and Pacific Islander movies that showcase heritage, history or culture!
Whale Rider directed by Niki Caro
Turtles Can Fly directed by Bahman Ghobadi
The Way Home directed by Lee Jeong-Hyang
Boy directed by Taika Waititi
Wadjda directed by Haifaa al-Mansour
Children of Heaven directed by Majid Majidi
The Joy Luck Club directed by Wayne Wang
Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa
First They Killed My Father directed by Angelina Jolie
The Breadwinner directed by Nora Twomey
Lagaan directed by Ashtutosh Gowariker
Khuda Ke Liye directed by Shoab Mansoor
Kumu Hina directed by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer
The Cave of the Yellow Dog directed by Byambasuren Davaa
Minari directed by Lee Isaac Chung
Growing up, my mom was a big fan of the small but highly acclaimed foreign movies section at Blockbuster. I spent a lot of my childhood watching movies from all over the world and I thought that it was commonplace (9/15 of the movies on this list I watched because of her). I understand now that this was my mom’s way of introducing me to other groups of people, cultures and heritages because she understood the importance of exposure and how that prevents the breeding of fear or hate.
This list is in no way comprehensive, but it’s a good starting point. I did my best to make sure the movies were each representative of a different country, nationality or ethnic group to keep it interesting. And although these movies may be your introduction to the heritage, history or culture of a certain group, it’s important to remember that being Asian and Pacific Islander is nuanced even inside of our own micro-groups. These are movies that I or someone I know have adored, but they might not be it for you, and that’s okay. Maybe a different medium like a TV show or book is better for you! The important thing is to branch out and learn new things to understand and be accepting of all people.