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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!

  1. Whale Rider directed by Niki Caro

  2. Turtles Can Fly directed by Bahman Ghobadi

  3. The Way Home directed by Lee Jeong-Hyang

  4. Boy directed by Taika Waititi

  5. Wadjda directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

  6. Children of Heaven directed by Majid Majidi

  7. The Joy Luck Club directed by Wayne Wang

  8. Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa

  9. First They Killed My Father directed by Angelina Jolie

  10. The Breadwinner directed by Nora Twomey

  11. Lagaan directed by Ashtutosh Gowariker

  12. Khuda Ke Liye directed by Shoab Mansoor

  13. Kumu Hina directed by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer

  14. The Cave of the Yellow Dog directed by Byambasuren Davaa

  15. 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.

Mahreen is currently a junior studying Political Science, International Relations and Pre Law. In her free time she enjoys reading books about politics and watching foreign films. She is passionate about helping people, social justice and self care.
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