When asked about my choice for Best of the Best Asian American films, my mind started to go into rewind mode over the past 25 years, because even as the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Produced by Visual Communications will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in May 2009, we are going through our own lists. As the festival’s co-director for the past twelve years of the largest Asian/Asian American film showcase of its kind in Southern California, I have seen tons of Asian American features and shorts from a multitude of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds covering so many stories, issues, and life events.
Our Asian American cinema is still at a growing stage with many new and exciting visual story tellers bringing their visions to the bring screen. When the festival first started out, there was only a handful of Asian American filmmakers. Now, there are many who are raising the bar of cinema excellence and making a mark. However, these are more of recent activity within the past two decades when finally these new artists had begun to explode onto the scene.
Our Asian American community continues to be hungry for our own stories and our own storytellers, as evidenced by the growth of our festival. Many more Asian Americans are in front of the camera, as well as behind the camera – so the timing now is extremely exciting and ever evolving with our amazingly growing talent pool. Also, many originally based Asian filmmakers have now crossed the Pacific and are making films in America including John Woo, Wong Kar Wai, the Pang Brothers and others adding to our own Asian American cultural richness as cinematic storytellers.
For the purposes of this list, we have a number of filmmakers who are Asian American and Asian directors who are here in the US – so I wanted to narrow it down to them and to the past 25 years. What was inspiring about looking at this entire genre of artists is that it encompassed so many different types of filmmakers, films and voices that continue to define Asian American cinema. This potpourri of visionaries include veterans and newbies such as Wayne Wang, Justin Lin, Mira Nair, Ang Lee, Gina Kim, So Young Kim, John Chu, the Bui Brothers, Jessica Yu, Arthur Dong, Stefane Gauger, Steven Okazaki, Frieda Lee Mock, Ham Tran, and Greg Pak, just to name a few.
The list below is culled from a “FOR US, BY US, and ABOUT US” thinking. What made these films stand out was their aesthetic in telling a story, staying true to the portrayals of the characters and how the film resonates with the viewer. It should be longer than the slots provide below – and because of this, I had to lump some films together into one slot to be included – mainly because these were important as a group.
Best of the Best:
These I consider essential viewing for Asian American films. Some are Asian American stories and some are from an Asian American perspective and may not star Asian Americans. Well, you will get it.
Learn how to find films by Asian Americans with the help of our experts, who have watched the best Asian American film genre unfold. We suggest classic Asian American movies that are must-have for your collection.