With the disturbing rise of hate crimes against people of Asian descent in the United States, it is on all of us to denounce hatred and stand with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
In the film world, it has been an interesting time for AAPI representation. Steven Yeun recently became the first Asian American male to be nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his role in Minari. In 2020, Bong Joon-ho swept the Oscars with his masterpiece, Parasite. However, even with big-screen diversity slowly becoming more mainstream, there are a lot of movies with Asian American and Pacific Islander casts and crews that have flown under the radar. I’ve written about The Farewell and Always Be My Maybe before, so I won’t include those here.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who remembers this movie exists. It’s one of my favorite thrillers. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty and starring John Cho, Searching is the story of David Kim, father of 16-year-old Margot. They are grappling with the grief of losing Margot’s mother, and they’ve grown distant. One day, Margot disappears without a trace, and when the police investigation doesn’t move as swiftly as David needs, he turns to the one place they haven’t looked: Margo’s laptop. The most interesting thing is that the movie is seen almost entirely through different device screens. It’s a super innovative and unique take on a thriller.
To All The Boys trilogy (Netflix)
This extremely popular Netflix series had people obsessing about it when it released in 2018. The first movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, was one of the most successful Netflix original films ever, and it spurred a slew of new romantic comedies for the streaming platform. Based on the young-adult book series by Jenny Han, Lana Condor stars as Lara Jean, a young Korean-American girl who dreams about romance all day long but is afraid to experience it for herself. After her lifelong collection of love letters written to every boy she’s ever fallen for gets mysteriously sent, she has to figure out how to handle the possibility of her feelings becoming something other than fantasy.
The Half of It (Netflix)
This quiet little gem of a movie was released on Netflix in the middle of April 2020 and didn’t get a lot of recognition. It follows the story of Ellie Chu, a quiet but talented student who makes extra money writing essays for her classmates. She’s approached by a lovable jock named Paul who seeks her help in writing love notes to his crush, Ellie. What starts off as a simple comedy of errors turns into a beautiful coming of age movie about being true to yourself and finding the strength to know your own worth. It’s beautiful, silly and moving, sometimes all at the same time — and definitely worth a watch.
Disney may be making strides toward more Asian American representation with the box office hits like Moana and Big Hero Six, but I was more impressed by this movie. A joint production between the American DreamWorks and the Chinese Pearl Studio, Abominable is an animated movie featuring an Asian cast and was animated by a lot of Chinese artists as well. The story is about Yi, a young girl who never seems to have time for her family. Instead, she spends her days dreaming of traveling across China and becoming a violinist like her late father. She partially gets her wish when a Yeti named Everest appears on her building’s rooftop one night, and she decides to travel across the country to help him reunite with his family. It’s fantasy mixed with an homage to Chinese culture, and it’s so much fun.