From: Silver Screen

Celebrate the end of AAPI Heritage Month with these must-watch films and TV shows

Celebrate the end of AAPI Heritage Month with these must-watch films and TV shows
"Future of Food: A Conversation with Jim Yong Kim & David Chang" by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

May is AAPI Heritage Month, a celebration of the contributions and achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society, culture and history. The AAPI community represents the blend of multiple cultures, allowing for new and unique perspectives in art — and in this case — film and TV. Here are five must-watch films and TV shows that explore the AAPI experience and highlight AAPI artists in style. 

Minari (2020) 

“Minari” follows a Korean immigrant family — led by Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Yeri Han) — as they attempt to start a farm in rural Arkansas. Directed and written by Lee Isaac Chung, this semi-autobiographical film explores the family’s efforts to fulfill their own American Dream while facing discrimination and xenophobia. 

The film is more than a family drama; the convergence of Korean and American culture speaks to the transcultural experience that AAPI individuals face. There’s a reason why this film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival and an Oscar after being nominated six times; “Minari” is visual poetry at its finest. 

“Minari” is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video now. 

Always Be My Maybe (2019) 

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What happens when you insert two great AAPI comedians into the standard rom-com formula? The result is not only fun but incredibly refreshing. Ali Wong and Randall Park star in “Always Be My Maybe,” a romantic comedy that hits all the right feel-good spots while remaining charming and relatable — looking at you, “Crazy Rich Asians.” Wong and Park play Sasha and Marcus; childhood friends who catch feelings for each other when they reconnect 16 years later in San Francisco. 

While the focus of the film isn’t on their AAPI identities, the representation is still just as impactful. The film’s charm comes from its subtlety as we watch two people — who both happen to be Asian American — fall in love, instead of Meg Ryan and Hugh Grant for the tenth time. Hilarious and heartwarming, “Always Be My Maybe” is sure to brighten your day. 

“Always Be My Maybe” is available to stream on Netflix now. 

Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America (2019) 

For the stand-up comedy fans, Ronny Chieng riffs about modern American life in the Netflix special, “Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America.” Chieng, who moved from Malaysia to the U.S. to join “The Daily Show,” gives his unique perspective on everything from consumerism to how people wrestle with the New York subway doors. His satirical edge and energetic stage presence combine for a laugh-fest that is sure to entertain. 

“Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America” is available to stream on Netflix now.  

Ugly Delicious (2018-)

“Ugly Delicious” follows chef and Momofuku founder David Chang as he explores different themes through amazing food and special guest stars. One thing that sets this food documentary series apart is how sincere and personal each episode is. Chang’s conversations with the different chefs and guests are deeply insightful and provide an interesting perspective at how we see food and its relationship with culture and life. 

A must-watch episode in season one is “Fried Rice.” Chang explores the vast diversity of Chinese cuisine across America while debunking and demystifying stereotypes. Another great episode is “Don’t Call it Curry” from season two, where special guests Padma Lakshmi and Aziz Ansari share their favorite Indian dishes with Chang. 

“Ugly Delicious” is available to stream on Netflix now. 

Never Have I Ever (2020) 

Who doesn’t love a good coming-of-age story? Created by Mindy Kaling, “Never Have I Ever” follows Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) — an optimistic but stubborn high school freshman — as she navigates school life, first loves and Indian identity. This series also has plenty to say about mental health and handling grief; it’s a lighthearted yet mature take on the average coming-of-age narrative. 

Ramakrishnan’s charisma and depth make her a standout performer in her breakout role as Devi. This is no “Riverdale,” where the high schoolers are played by jarring adults; “Never Have I Ever” captures the awkwardness and youth of high school to a tee. The exploration of Indian American identity is thought-provoking — it’s a perspective that feels fresh and new, yet familiar and relatable. “Never Have I Ever” balances humor with poignancy in masterful ways and culminates into a moving, tear-jerking finale.

“Never Have I Ever” is available to stream on Netflix now. 

tau@theeagleonline.com


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