Material that has helped inform my understanding of my Asian American identity, in some way or other.
Actors & Comedians
Magazines & News Sources
Collectives & Orgs
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with questions, recommendations for the archive or library, suggestions for collaboration, or other thoughts.
“Who Killed Vincent Chin?” (1987)
WHAT IS THIS? This Academy Award-nominated documentary film recounts the murder of Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese American engineer who was beaten to death by two white males (the superintendent of a Chrysler plant and his stepson) in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park, Michigan in June 1982.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Vincent Chin’s story is an essential one for Asian Americans to know. This documentary makes sure the racial motivation, horrific murder, troubling aftermath, and ongoing legacy are committed to our collective memory. The film shines light on the tensions within the US working class during the rise of neoliberalism, the rise of a pan-ethnic Asian American movement, the injustice of the US courts with regards to Asians, the role of the auto industry in Detroit, the ongoing attitudes of xenophobia and racism in suburban America, and more.
WHAT IS THIS? This classic stoner film features underdog duo played by John Cho and Kal Penn as they go on a quest to satisfy their munchies.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? This was always one of my favorite films because it puts two great actors in a place that Asian Americans never get to be in cinematically - as protagonists who are extremely high despite their parents’ hopes and dreams for them. Beyond paving the way for me to embrace being lit throughout high school amidst my own parents’ hopes and dreams for my future, the film is surprisingly thoughtful and spot-on in commenting openly about Asian American understandings of racial dynamics in the workplace, suburbs, inner-city, college and more. I’m thrilled to say that this movie genuinely deserves a spot in my archive.
Meet the Patels (2014)
WHAT IS THIS? A romantic comedy documentary directed by Indian American siblings Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel, exploring Ravi’s journey of self-discovery as he wields to his parents’ expectations of how to search for love the traditional way, through cyber-arranged dating with other Indian American woman.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Ravi Patel’s family as filmed by his sister is hilarious, charming, and familiar to any Indian American. I thought my connection to the film would stop here, but I was touched by the inner dialogues that Ravi goes through as he realizes internal and external pressures to settle down with an Indian woman instead of rekindle affairs with his white American ex-girlfriend. I was so surprised by my own reaction, watching Ravi try so hard to meet the hopes and expectations he and his family have always had about his future partner; I found myself rooting for him to end up with an Indian-American even as those interactions left him feeling uninspired time and time again. This film helped heal a wound I didn’t even know I had as I was forced to confront someone else going through the same self-doubting conversations I’ve had with myself about long-term futures with an incredible, loving, but non-Indian partner.
WHAT IS THIS? A 15-minute coming-of-age story directed and produced by Pakistani-British actor and rapper Rizwan Ahmed (aka Riz MC). The short film focuses on young protagonist Naseem as he navigates his role in private school, the 90s British Asian underground scene, and family life.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? It’s beautifully shot and unfolds naturally to shed light on a subculture that I’ve never seen highlighted artistically before. In a very short time frame, the vignette showed me the feelings, words, fashion, music, and culture of a complicated diasporic identity that, even though I I was across an ocean and in a different decade in , feel
Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
WHAT IS THIS? This crime-drama directed by Justin Lin (the Taiwanese American genius who saved the The Fast and the Furious franchise) features a crew of Asian American teens who quickly climb from acing tests to selling test scores to selling and using drugs to the climactic crime of the film.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Better Luck Tomorrow blows all stereotyping of respectable Asian youth completely out of the water. The dialogue is natural, the acting is totally believable, the roles are unheard of and the storyline is unpredictable. I love how viewers are forced to contend with traditional tropes of Asianness via the lack thereof; for example, we never meet a single parent figure throughout the film, and have to define these kids entirely outside of parent expectations and behavior.
Justin Lin himself is a badass - amongst other credentials, he’s the co-producer of Asian American pop culture site You Offend Me, You Offend My Family - and both he and this film have an awesome history that is worth checking out, including Roger Ebert yelling at an audience member at the film's Sundance Film Festival screening, “Nobody would say that to a bunch of white filmmakers: ‘How could you do this to your people?’ Asian American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be!”