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Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Movies and Music List

Join the Denver Public Library in May 2022 as we celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander voices in media with documentaries, feature films, and music albums.

Documentary Description: Acclaimed director Steve James tells the saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves, and their bank's legacy in the Chinatown community, over the course of a five-year legal battle.

Movie Description: In the year of 2041, this Si-Fi drama movie explores the extremes a mother would go to in order to secure her daughter's future. In this near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter Jules do all they can to hold on to their joy together, despite the instability surfacing in their world. The tale of a mother's desperate sacrifice, "Advantageous" presents an offbeat, intimate dystopian vision that is strongly intriguing for a while.

Movie Description: Based on the inspiring true story of salesman turned pastor Michael Spurlock, the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Together, they risked everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.

Movie Description: Faced with a country that now doubted their loyalty following Pearl Harbor and struggling with their new situation, Japanese-American families turned to baseball as a way to handle their plight and find the strength to stand up for themselves.

Documentary Description: Meet the "Chinese Joan of Arc,"Qiu Jin (秋瑾) (1875-1907), a radical women’s rights activist who defied tradition to become the leader of a revolutionary army. Qiu Jin boldly challenged traditional gender roles and demanded equal rights and opportunities for women. She was the first woman to lead an armed uprising against the corrupt Qing Dynasty, for which she was arrested and executed. She became the first female martyr for China’s 1911 Revolution and is celebrated as a national heroine today...While Qiu Jin is a familiar figure in China, she is largely unknown outside of the country. AUTUMN GEM is the first documentary feature on Qiu Jin in the U.S. Using scholar interviews, archival materials, and dramatic recreation scenes based on her original writings, AUTUMN GEM brings the story of Qiu Jin to life...AUTUMN GEM was produced and directed by two San Francisco Bay Area Chinese American filmmakers, Rae Chang and Adam Tow. It stars former China National Wushu Champion and Hollywood stunt actress Li Jing. Our partners include the San Francisco Chinese Culture Center, San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, and the Official Qiu Jin Museum in Shaoxing, China..."With all my heart I beseech and beg..my two hundred million female compatriots..to assume their responsibility as citizens...Arise! Arise! Chinese women, arise!".-Qiu Jin

Documentary Description: This award-winning documentary follows the lives and careers of four Asian-American rappers trying to break into hip-hop culture, which often treats them as outsiders. Sharing dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews, these artists are driven to make the most skeptical critics into believers.. Official Selection at the Tribeca Film Festival. Winner of Best Documentary Feature at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.. "BAD RAP succeeds in illustrating the unseen fears that reside below the surface of bravery of expression from a previously untold angle." 

Movie Description: Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, this is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up and coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man, a battle that gave birth to a legend.

Documentary Description: Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of community and art.

Movie Description: Acclaimed filmmaker Wayne Wang's first feature film Chan is missing follows the adventures of two cabbies on their search through San Francisco's Chinatown for a mysterious character who has disappeared with $4,000 of their money. Their quest to figure out what happened to Chan and their missing cash leads them on a humorous journey that illuminates the pitfalls of Chinese-Americans trying to assimilate into contemporary American society.

Movie Description: After being evicted, hardworking single mom Elaine Cheng tries to maintain a normal life for her children, Raymond and Tina. They squat in a Boston apartment as Elaine juggles a number of jobs, including working for a questionable pyramid scheme. When Elaine doesn't return home one night, nobody knows the kids are home alone, and they are left to fend for themselves. Raymond, a budding inventor, realizes he needs to come up with a plan to take care of his little sister.

Movie Description: When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana; a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey, an architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. As their intimacy develops, they explore both the town and their conflicted emotions: Jin's estranged relationship with his father, and Casey's reluctance to leave Columbus and her mother.

Movie Description: A native New Yorker Rachel Chu accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick's family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. It turns out that he is not only the scion of one of the country's wealthiest families but also one of its most sought-after bachelors.

Movie Description: Set in 19th-century China, two master warriors are faced with their greatest challenge when the treasured Green Destiny sword is stolen. A young aristocratic woman prepares for an arranged marriage, but soon reveals her superior fighting talents and her romantic past. As each warrior battles for justice, they come face-to-face with their worst enemy, and the enduring power of love.

Movie Description: The fates of an unlucky pig farmer, a feisty home-owner defending her property, a lovestruck busboy, a disenchanted rich girl, and an American ex-pat pursuing the Chinese Dream converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs are found floating down the Huangpu River, towards a modernizing Shanghai in Cathy Yan's (Birds Of Prey) debut feature.

Documentary Description: In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in the New York Times Magazine. Documented chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in person in over 20 years.

Documentary Description: Reveals the life of the man behind the legend, Bruce Lee: a life of awesome martial arts fighting skill, passionate romance, and spiritual triumph over demons from without ... and within.

Movie Description: A lonesome boy accompanies his mother on a trip to clean out his late aunt's house, where he ends up forming an unexpected friendship with the retiree who lives next door. Official Selection at the **Berlin International Film Festival** and the **Tribeca Film Festival**.

TV Show Description: From Executive Producer Anthony Bourdain, these 8 half-hour episodes will take you into the mind of Chef Edward Lee as he explores the history and heritage of what it means to be a chef. Edward Lee's culinary style draws inspiration from his Asian heritage, his New York training, and his embrace of the American South, coupled with the best ingredients from local farms.

Movie Description: Recruited by an intelligence agency, outstanding martial arts student Bruce Lee participates in a brutal karate tournament hosted by the evil Han. Along with champions Roper and Williams, he uncovers Han's white slavery and drug trafficking ring located on a secret island fortress. In the exciting climax, hundreds of freed prisoners fight in an epic battle with Lee and Han locked in a deadly duel.

Movie Description: In this funny, heartfelt story, Billi's (Awkwafina) family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch-the only person that doesn't know she only has a few weeks to live. **Golden Globe** winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Official Selection at the **Sundance Film Festival**.

Movie Description: In order to avoid a jail sentence, Sean Boswell moves to Tokyo to live with his military father and gets caught up in the underground world of drift racing.

TV Show Description: Join TV's funniest new family and flashback to the '90s. Twelve-year-old hip-hop enthusiast Eddie Huang and his family make their way from D.C.'s Chinatown to Orlando where his dad, Louis tries to make his new steakhouse a success. His mom, Jessica aims to understand the culture clash and dominate suburbia. While his brothers fit right in, Eddie's still tries to get a seat at the table, any table, in the school cafeteria.

Movie Description: Ryan is a handsome fashion stylist living in New York City who rejects his traditional Asian upbringing in favor of enjoying his life as openly gay. However that all changes when Ryan is assigned to style Ning, a famous Chinese actor, for an important photo shoot for his firm. Despite a rocky start, an unlikely romance develops between the two, leading Ryan to re-examine his roots and consider an enticing new path for his career. FRONT COVER is a tender, entertaining look at clashing cultures and love.

Movie Description: When spoiled rich girl Sasha Li blows through half of her trust fund, she is cut off by her father and forced to go back to China and work for the family toy business. Official Selection at the **SXSW Film Festival**.

Movie Description: Eli and Daniel, two Korean American brothers, own a struggling shoe store and have an unlikely friendship with Kamilla, a streetwise eleven-year-old African American girl. It's just another typical day at the store until the Rodney King verdict is read and riots break out. With the chaos moving towards them, the trio is forced to defend the store while contemplating the future of their own personal dreams and the true meaning of family.

Movie Description: Award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, In between days conveys an extraordinary sense of intimacy in depicting a young Korean immigrant's journey toward self-discovery.

Movie Description: Chip Hines, a precocious six-year-old, has only known life with his two dads, Cody and Joey. And a good life it is. When Cody suddenly dies in a car accident, Joey and Chip struggle to find their footing again. Just as they begin to, Cody's will reveals that he named his sister as Chip's guardian. The years of Joey's acceptance into the family unravel as Chip is taken away from him. Now Joey searches for a solution in order to find peace with the family and be closer to his son.

Movie Description: In the heart of Chinatown, New York, an ornery, chain-smoking, newly widowed 80-year-old Grandma (Tsai Chin) is eager to live life as an independent woman, despite the worry of her family. When a local fortune teller (Wai Ching Ho) predicts a most auspicious day in her future, Grandma decides to head to the casino and goes all in, only to land herself on the wrong side of luck...suddenly attracting the attention of some local gangsters. Desperate to protect herself, Grandma employs the services of a bodyguard from a rival gang (Corey Ha) and soon finds herself right in the middle of a Chinatown gang war. Director Sasie Sealy brings to life a dark comedy about immigrant life, the vulnerabilities of aging and an unexpected friendship. Set in alleyways underground mahjong parlors with a cast of richly drawn characters (including Taiwanese movie star Corey Ha), LUCKY GRANDMA is a love letter to Chinatown and an homage to all the badass elderly women who inhabit it. 

Movie Description: A tender and sweeping story about what roots people that follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, this film shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

Documentary Description: The extraordinary debut from documentarian Bing Liu weaves a story of skateboarding, friendship, and fathers and sons into a coming-of-age journey of courageous vulnerability.

Documentary Description: After the Pearl Harbor attack, Ben Kuroki would be the first Japanese-American war hero, surviving 58 missions as an aerial gunner. But he found himself at the center of controversy, as the lone spokesman against the racism faced by the thousands of Japanese-Americans.

Movie Description: Chinese-American adolescent Ernest works after school cleaning rooms at the dingy motel owned by his bossy mother. A Korean-American playboy drifter helps Ernest come out of his shell, encouraging him to pursue an older girl he has a crush on. Ernest absorbes life lessons about girls, bullies, baseball and success.

Movie Description: In the dark karaoke rooms of Los Angeles's Koreatown, Kasie works as a doumi girl, a young hostess paid to cater to rich businessmen. As she struggles to hide her troubles through soju-and-MDMA-fueled nights, her mind is focused on one thing: earning enough tips to continue providing for her bedridden father. When her father's caretaker unexpectedly quits, Kasie seeks help from her estranged brother, and the siblings are forced to reconnect and reconcile their years long separation. From acclaimed filmmaker Justin Chon. Official Selection at the **Sundance Film Festival** and **CAAMFest**. *"Together, these various shades of misery swirl together to create a beautiful portrait of a fractured but resilient family." - Andee Tagle, **NPR***

Movie Description: A woman with a seemingly perfect marriage to a successful lawyer begins an affair with an immigrant worker in order to get pregnant, after finding that her husband is unable to father children.

Movie Description: As teenagers, kung fu disciples Danny, Hing, and Jim were inseparable. Fast forward 25 years, and each has grown into a washed-up middle-aged man seemingly one kick away from pulling a hamstring, and not at all preoccupied with thoughts of martial arts or childhood best friends. But when their old master is murdered, the trio reunites, soon learning that avenging their sifu will require conquering old grudges if they are to honorably defend his legacy.

Movie Description: Seven films from Samuel Fuller, spanning his sixty years in Hollywood.

Movie Description: Yoon Se Ri is an heiress to a conglomerate in South Korea. One day, while paragliding, an accident caused leads Yoon Se Ri to make an emergency landing in North Korea. There, she meets Ri Jung Hyuk, who is a North Korean army officer.

Movie Description: After David Kim's sixteen-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter's laptop. David must trace his daughter's digital footprints before she disappears forever.

Documentary Description: In this mouth-watering documentary, director Wayne Wang (*The Joy Luck Club*) profiles Cecilia Chiang, the matriarch of modern Chinese cooking, as she relates her fascinating history and cooks up a sumptuous, once-in-a-lifetime banquet. *"A mind-bendingly hunger-inducing piece of filmmaking." - **LA Weekly*** *"Charming, flavorful, and deeply moving" - **The Hollywood Reporter***

Movie Description: A portrait of forbidden sexual awakening set in the nocturnal world of spas and karaoke bars in Los Angeles' Koreatown. Nominated for two prizes at **Sundance Film Festival**, Winner of the John Cassavetes Award at the **Film Independent Spirit Awards**. *"Writer-director Andrew Ahn has made a confident, assured, low-key debut that's a textbook example of how to make a compelling small-budget movie." - G. Allen Johnson, **San Francisco Chronicle***

Movie Description: Set in a mining town in the 1880s, THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD is based on the classic novel by Ruthanne Lum McCunn with a screenplay by award-winning filmmaker Anne Makepeace (Tribal Justice). Upon its release in 1990, the film won immediate acclaim for its portrayal of the real-life story of Lalu (Rosalind Chao), a young Chinese woman whose desperately poor parents sell her into slavery. She is trafficked to a nefarious saloonkeeper in Idaho's gold country. Eventually Charlie (Chris Cooper), a man of different ilk, wins her in a poker game and slowly gains her trust. Way ahead of its time, the film resonates even more powerfully today in the era of #MeToo. Nancy Kelly became a victim of prejudice against women directors within the American film industry and was never offered another movie to direct in spite of extraordinary reviews from critics, some of whom compared her talent to that of John Ford.

Movie Description: A woman in her early 40s moves from China to America to start a new life. Her father comes to visit her due to her recent divorce. Their generational conflicts reveal the darker lies and cover-ups within her family during the Cultural Revolution.

Movie Description: Wai-Tung (Winston Chao) and Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) are happily living in New York when word comes from Wai-Tung's parents, who, tired of waiting for their son to marry, have hired a dating service to get him closer to the altar. Wai-Tung and Simon hatch a plot that'll see Wai-Tung married to Wei-Wei (May Chin), an acquaintance in need of her green card. Problem solved. That is, until Wai-Tung's parents announce a visit and insist that a customary wedding banquet be given for the couple.

Movie Description: A Filipina teen from a small Texas town fights to pursue her dreams as a country music performer while having to decide between staying with her family and leaving the only home she has known.

Aoki, Steve

Award-winning Japanese-American DJ, electronic dance-music producer, and label founder, Steven Hiroyuki Aoki is known for his numerous collaborations with other artists and his charitable work. Neon Future I is the first of several conceptual albums by him.  
 

Aoki, Steve

Award-winning Japanese-American DJ, electronic dance music producer, and label founder, Steven Hiroyuki Aoki is known for his numerous collaborations with other artists and his charitable work. Neon Future II is the second of several conceptual albums by Aoki, it features Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Snoop Dogg, and filmmaker/composer J.J. Abrams. 

Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack

Soundtrack to the popular 2018 film about a Chinese-American professor who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's family. The album was assembled by director Jon M. Chu and music supervisor Gabe Hilfer and contains covers of popular English-language songs sung in Chinese and Chinese songs from the 1950s and 1960s.

Danger Mouse (and Karen O)

Korean-American singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Karen Lee Orzolek is the lead singer of the rock group the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She is also known for her musical collaborations, solo work, and her Grammy and Academy award nominated soundtracks. Lux Prima finds her collaborating with influential musician and producer, Danger Mouse on songs inspired by motherhood and life cycles.

H.E.R.

Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, known professionally as H.E.R. (short for Having Everything Revealed) is a Filipina-American R&B singer. Her platinum selling self-titled album was nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album.

Hudgens, Vanessa

Filipina-American actress and singer Vanessa Anne Hudgens got her start in the High School Musical series. Identified is her second solo album. Its pop single "Sneakernight" hit 88 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast is the performing/recording name of Korean-American musician and bestselling author, Michelle Zauner. On Soft Sounds from Another Planet she continues to explore her own brand of intimate, reflective indie pop

Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast is the performing/recording name of Korean-American musician and bestselling author, Michelle Zauner. Her intimate, reflective brand of indie pop is expanded upon with each album. Jubilee was released just after her deeply personal memoir, Crying in H Mart and can be seen as a companion piece.  

Jhené Aiko

Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo is an American R&B and soul soprano of Japanese descent. Her album, Chilombo features freestyle lyrics, crystal singing bowls, and acoustic instrumentation which seeks to evoke the flowing volcanoes of Hawaii, where it was recorded. 

Kamakawiwoʻole, Israel

Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (known as Iz for short) remains one of the most popular Hawaiian musicians and ukulele players. He was known for mixing contemporary music styles with traditional Hawaiian music. This album contains live versions of some of his more mellow songs. 

Kamakawiwoʻole, Israel

Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (known as Iz for short) remains one of the most popular Hawaiian musicians and ukulele players. He was known for mixing contemporary music styles with traditional Hawaiian music. N Dis Life exemplifies his Hawaiian-reggae approach. 
 

Karen O

Korean-American singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Karen Lee Orzolek is the lead singer of the rock group the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She is also known for her musical collaborations, solo work, and her Grammy and Academy award nominated soundtracks. Crush Songs is a lo-fi, intimate, and largely acoustic collection of songs and her first full-length solo effort.

Kishi Bashi

Kishi Bashi is the solo recording project of Japanese-American singer-songwriter, producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Kaoru Ishibashi. His music is generally playful, melodic, and romantic, often featuring violin and loops. Lighght is his second solo album of multi-layered, classically-inspired, indie electro-pop. 

Kishi Bashi

Kishi Bashi is the solo recording project of singer-songwriter, producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Kaoru Ishibashi. This surprisingly playful, sweet-sounding album is a companion piece to his documentary, Omoiyari: a Songfilm, where he explores contemporary anti-immigrant rhetoric and performs music in locations relevant to the WWII-era incarceration of Japanese-Americans. Himself, the son of Japanese immigrants. “Omoiyari'' means acting with consideration, empathy, and compassion towards others. 

Lennon, Sean

The son of Beatle John Lennon and avant-garde artist/musician Yoko Ono, Sean Taro Ono Lennon is a musician and producer. He has performed as part of Cibo Matto, the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and the Claypool Lennon Delirium. Friendly Fire is a solo effort that explores love and loss in a breezy, pop-psychedelic manner.   

Les Sins

Les Sins is Filipino-American electronic musician, producer, and artist Chazwick Bradley Bundick’s side project, which he started as a way to create more experimental music without alienating fans of his main musical outlet, Toro y Moi. On Michael he crafts danceable beats and grooves with a dreamy atmosphere.  

Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki is a Japanese born singer-songwriter. Puberty 2 is a personal and confessional work about her navigating adulthood and looking for belonging.     

Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki is a Japanese born singer-songwriter. On Be the Cowboy, she adopts an “exaggerated form” of herself to explore themes of sacrifice, identity, isolation, and otherness. 
 

Ono, Yōko

Avant-garde artist, musician, and peace activist, Yoko Ono released Take Me to the Land of Hell the year she turned 80. Some of the themes on this experimental album are war, peace, loneliness, her adopted hometown of New York, and dancing.
 

Sasami

Sasami Ashworth is a Korean-American singer-songwriter and a classically trained French horn player. She’s scored orchestral arrangements for films, commercials, and studio albums, taught music in L.A., been a session musician, and played synths for the rock band Cherry Glazerr. Her self-titled first album is an introspective mix of dream pop and indie rock.
 

Shimabukuro, Jake

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro is a Hawaiian born, Japanese-American musician who first came to prominence when a video of his rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" went viral on YouTube. On Peace, Love, Ukulele he shows off his chops with complex original compositions and covers of Leonard Cohen and Queen. 

Shimabukuro, Jake

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro is a Hawaiian born, Japanese-American musician who first came to prominence when a video of his rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" went viral on YouTube. Here he is joined by bassist Nolan Verner and guitarist Dave Preston as they explore improvisational jams and cover songs by Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and others.

Thao

We Brave Bee Stings and All is the second album by Vietnamese-American singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, and her first on the Kill Rock Stars label. On it she blends folk, blues, country, and indie pop sounds.
 

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Thao Nguyen blends pop, rock, hip-hop, and other styles on her latest album. Temple is informed by her first visit to Vietnam in 2017, accompanied by her mother, who hadn’t been back since fleeing the Vietnam War. On Temple, Nguyen explores the sometimes conflicting cultures and attitudes that shaped her family, her music, and herself.  

Toro y Moi

Toro y Moi is Filipino-American electronic musician, producer, and artist Chazwick Bundick’s main musical project. Anything in Return has a mostly laid-back, late-night synth sound, with his vocals up front.