Watch these films for AAPI Heritage Month

By Megan Guerrero

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (APPI) Heritage Month. AAPI month was founded to celebrate the contributions and culture of the millions of Asian and Pacific Islanders throughout America. 

This month of celebration is particularly important since there is so little representation of the AAPI community in the media. According to the Library of Congress, despite there being over 20 million people throughout the United States who identify as Native Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Islander, within the film and television industry there are fewer than 6 percent of speaking roles and less than 4 percent of co-leads go to AAPI actors or actresses. 

So, in honor of AAPI month, here are movies and TV shows that illustrate and educate on AAPI stories and heritage. 

“Everywhere Everything All at Once” by Daniel Quan and Daniel Scheinert

“Everywhere Everything All at Once” follows the multiverse adventure of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a middle aged women struggling with her failing laundromat business and family troubles with her husband, Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan), and daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). After an interdimensional rupture unravels reality and she is suddenly tasked to save it. The movie explores multiple struggles that many immigrant families face, ranging from dealing with a broken family, financial struggles, and struggling to meet up to family expectations. 

“Minari” by Lee Isaac Chung

Set in the early 1980s, “Minari” follows a Korean immigrant family who moves from metropolitan California to rural Arkansas, in hopes of finding success in the farming industry to achieve the American Dream for themselves and their children. A calming yet heart-wrenching story, the movie explores multiple themes regarding the reality of many immigrant families that include struggling to make ends meet, a desire to fit into social life, failure, and the endless love families have for each other. 

“Never Have I Ever” by Lang Fisher and Mindy Kaling

“Never Have I Ever” is a coming of age comedy-drama series following a first generation Indian-American teen Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) from the San Fernando Valley. She seeks to make a comeback into popularity after her horrible freshman year and the death of her father. The series is fun, humorous, and playful, featuring multiple \relatable subjects to teenagers such as dating, finding one’s identity, grief, and most especially Devi’s strained relationship with her strict mother (Poorna Jagannathan). The show differs from many other teen series by showing these themes through the lens of an Indian-American girl, tastefully including many cultural references as well. 

“Finding Ohana” by Jude Weng

As two Brooklyn teens spend their summer in rural Oahu, Hawaii with their big extended family, they discover a journal that leads them onto an adventure of a lifetime. Throughout the adventure, they are able to re-discover their Hawaiin heritage and culture, as well as heal their families conflict and strains. “Finding Ohana” is a fun, family-friendly movie that celebrates family love and indigenous Hawaiin culture. 

“Moana” by Ron Clements and John Musker

Undoubtedly one of Disney’s most popular recent films, “Moana” takes place within Ancient Polynesian islands. The movie follows the daughter of the chief, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), as she embarks on a journey to save her people with the help of Demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Together, they overcome challenges ranging from battling monsters and finding their true identities. The movie takes inspiration from Polynesian and Pacific Islander mythology and culture.

“Better Luck Tomorrow” by Justin Lin

The movie follows the story of a unique group of anti-heroes. The main characters are East Asian students from affluent families in Orange County who are high-achieving, straight A students. However, this group of friends are actually criminals, running all types of schemes such as selling old test answers and drugs. The group plays off the controversial Asian Model-Minority Myth to avoid suspicion. This movie touches on multiple popular teen-drama themes such as romance, guilt, and crime, but most differently and specially explores the Asian Model-Minority myth.