Hello Kitty’s Film Recommendations: APA Heritage Month

Because it’s Asian Pacific Heritage month, and because I’m a film fanatic, here is a list, far from complete and a bit dated, of films I’ve viewed involving Asian Pacific culture. These films capture the intersectionality of many issues: gender, sexuality, moving among several cultures (switching social codes), and establishing lives. There are also the common “versus” struggles: individuality versus collectivism; native versus western; duty versus rebellion; old (older generation, tradition) versus new (younger generation, new values). There are many more that should be considered. I’ve roughed out categories and indicated where there are women in executive roles.


Thousand Pieces of GoldChinese diaspora, women’s conditions, slavery/indentured service, wilderness America, and Chris Cooper to boot. Director: Nancy Kelly. Screenwriter: Ruthanne Lum McCann.

Picture BrideJapanese, Filipino diaspora, Hawaii, women’s conditions, indentured service, marriage, Youki Kudoh, cameo by Toshiro Mifune. Director and screenwriter: Kayo Hatta.

Eat a Bowl of Teaarranged marriage, working class immigrants, Chinatown.


The Wedding BanquetArranged marriage, only child, double life, secrets, family duty, LGBTQ, one drunken (wedding) night.

Saving Facemother and daughter both looking for acceptance, secret lovers, model minority, preserving honor (saving face), LGBTQ. Director and screenwriter: Alice Wu.

Life in North America

A Great Wallfamily, returning “home,” going native.

Better Luck Tomorrowstereotypes redefined, youth, rebellion, crimes, and misdemeanors (love you MC Hammer for funding this).

Double Happiness(OMG this hits so many nerves) actor, rebellion, authentic living, Canada, Sandra Oh. Director and screenwriter: Mina Shum.

Racism and Persecution

Come See the ParadiseJapAm internment, mixed family, Manzanar (the best known of the dog kennels internment camps).

Snow Falling on CedarsJapAm internment, bittersweet love, ravages of war, discriminatory business practices, Youki Kudoh.

Golden Gate(a mediocre film, a Henry David Hwang script gone wrong, but watch it for the historical value) Chinatown, red scare/yellow peril, communism, activism, Tzi Ma.

Growing Up/Youth

Eve and the Fire HorseSisters, the specter of death, superstition, Chinese zodiac, rebirth.

The Home Song StoriesBroken home, displaced family, a tragic beauty, Joan Chen, Australia.

My list is east-Asian influenced. For Asian diaspora in general, I’d also recommend: Mira Nair’s Mississippi MasalaThe NamesakeBend it Like BeckhamMadame SousztakaMy Beautiful Laundrette; East is EastThe Journey. Please list films that you’d recommend based on their cultural, historical, and entertainment value.

12 replies on “Hello Kitty’s Film Recommendations: APA Heritage Month”

Wow, Netflix is impressive. The movies not available from my list are: The Home Sung Stories; Madame Sousatzka; Golden Gate; and Eve and the Fire Horse. These films I’ve seen on the Starz Cable network, so check your local cable listings.

I can’t wait to check out the movies on this list! My only regret is that I cannot like this post about 10 times. I like film but it can sometimes be overwhelming to know what to check out – do you just jump in or what (I tend to just jump in, fyi), so it’s great to have some pointers.

Yes, the movie was okay, but it did show how the family lost its farm, which happened to most Japanese when they were released from “camp”. They didn’t have businesses to return to, most farms were lost, so they had to start over. The film does reference that. Yes, the book is superior.

Mira Nair is one of my favorite directors. I generally recommend anything she’s made.

Also: Deepa Mehta’s trilogy: Fire, Earth, and Water. Earth is based on the novel, Cracking India, about the partition, and either will probably bring you to tears.

Bandit Queen is a fictionalized account about the life of Poohlan Devi, a former bandit who eventually got into politics and was assassinated. I wouldn’t exactly say the film is factual, but interesting none the less.

Bombay Talkie is a Merchant Ivory film that features the first mixed race kiss in Indian cinema and was pretty controversial at the time.

Mother India is considered a classic of Indian filmmaking and should probably not be missed.

Chutney Popcorn is about being an Indian lesbian in Canada.

The documentary, Born into Brothels, has gotten tremendous praise. (I have not seen it personally.)

Seriously, Yuri Kochiyama is an absolute inspiration. I know you know who she is, but I was hoping other people reading this might be interested in learning more about her.

All of my visual anthropology classes were taught by the last prince of Gudjarat (seriously), so I have a pretty decent knowledge of Indian cinema — and, of course, my anthropologist husband sort of influences things too — which is why I’m able to toss out that list pretty easily. But maybe I will do an article! You should definitely try Earth and Fire — I think you’d like them.

And thanks for the list! I’ve only seen a couple of your recommendations, so I know what I’ll be filling my Netflix queue up with.

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