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  • Writer's pictureCinemasters Staff

Our Favorite Asian-Directed Films for AAPI Heritage Month

Updated: May 7, 2021

May 2021 is Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and we here at would love to showcase some of our favorite movies that were made possible by these brilliant AAPI creatives. The film industry would not be where it is today without the impact of the AAPI community so this is us showing our gratitude. We hope you enjoy!

Rua's Picks:

In The Mood For Love (2000) dir. Wong Kar-wai

Not only is this my favorite film by an Asian director but it is also one of my favorite movies of all time. In The Mood For Love is a harrowing story by Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-wai about two neighbors trapped in loveless marriages who grow closer over time. From the score to the costume design to the writing, In The Mood For Love is a film that is just so undeniably professional. It's a difficult task to find a flaw in any Wong Kar-wai film, especially this one. In The Mood For Love solidifies the director as one of the greatest of our generation.

Spirited Away (2001) dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Out of all the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, I can't think of a better example than Spirited Away when it comes to showcasing the company's creative genius. This movie made me fall in love with Studio Ghibli and acted as my introduction to anime as an art style. The best part about this movie is that you can tell just how much work, effort, and creativity went into each hand-drawn frame. Even after seeing it countless times, the writing and visuals still leave me speechless.

The Farewell (2019) dir. Lulu Wang

Lulu Wang's The Farewell is one of the most personal films I have seen in a long time. It's about a woman who returns to China to see her Grandmother one last time before her death and is forced to reconnect with her Chinese heritage after living in the United States for so long. The storytelling in The Farewell is something that will stick with you long after you watch it even if you aren't able to fully relate to the character's struggles. I honestly cannot wait to see what Lulu Wang does next!

Cade's Picks:

Searching (2018) dir. Aneesh Chaganty

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect going into this movie. I had been disappointed in the past with these sort of “technology horror/mystery/ thriller” movies for a long time, so when entering Searching, part of me expected that same kinda feeling. However, I’m glad to say that this film blew away all prior expectations I had beforehand. It’s crafted so well, with an intricate and enthralling story that leaves you on the edge of your seat. And it somehow does this all through the simple screen of a computer. It's carried so much by the incredible direction, writing, and a stellar performance from John Cho. Truly a surprising film in all of the best ways.

Ponyo (2008) dir. Hayao Miyazaki

It’s hard not to acknowledge Hayao Miyazaki when discussing groundbreaking and amazing AAPI directors. I found it supremely difficult to choose just one of his films to discuss. I have a soft place in my heart for so many of his projects such as Princess Mononoke or My Neighbor Totoro, however I always had a special affinity for Ponyo. As a kid, it was the first Miyazaki film I ever saw in theaters, and one of his first films I ever saw period, and it absolutely stunned me. Ponyo has such a heartwarming and nostalgic story for me, and I found it to be a Ghibli film I always came back to. Watching this film always reminds me of the nostalgic joys of being a child, and I will forever be grateful for Ponyo.

Ran (1985) dir. Akira Kurosawa

While the other two films I mentioned are great examples of fantastic cinema, Ran I feel is a step above, an absolute masterpiece that stands with the all - time greats. I’ve always been a Kurosawa fan ever since my substitute teacher introduced me to his films and had me study his directing style. I was able to go through so many of his films, but Ran is truly the one that stuck with me the most. This film’s absolutely stunning, and it’s use of color and lighting and cinematography is so precise and thoughtful. Its adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear in my opinion stands at par, and in fact surpasses the original Shakespeare production. It’s hard to put into words the true mastery that is this film. If you haven’t stepped into the world or Kurosawa, please do yourself a favor and jump right in.

Cooper's Picks:

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) dir. John M. Chu

Among John M. Chu's finest work in my opinion. Crazy Rich Asians is a fun rom com about being able to accept who you are and being willing to stick up for yourself and your identity. I remember in 2018 how it stood as a beacon of hope for Asian representation in media especially after it made absolute bank at the box office. In the world of American rom-coms, Crazy Rich Asians certainly is a cut above the rest.

Fast Five (2011) dir. Justin Lin

Arguably the best of the Fast and the Furious series. Justin Lin's Fast Five contains fun and perfectly choreographed action scenes, introduces Dwayne Johnson, and drives home the series’s emphasis on family always coming first. While it's not exactly a traditional pick when it comes to classic "cinema" Fast Five is easily one of the best action movies to come out of the 21st century so far and stands as one of my favorite films directed by an Asian American filmmaker.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) [2020] dir. Cathy Yan

Without a doubt, a huge improvement from David Ayer's Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey is proof of the magic that can happen when you hire WOC directors. It’s got fun action scenes and, comedically yet accurately shows aspects of superhero life we don’t often see on the big screen. Overall, Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey is a fun, vibrant, and engaging film that leaves me eagerly waiting to see what she does next.

Nic's Picks:

Oldboy (2003) dir. Park Chan-wook

The first time I saw Oldboy, it seriously changed my life. Park Chan-wook's film is a revolutionary revenge tale that has so many twists and turns. It never fails to leave you on the edge of your seat. Park chan-wook did a fantastic job with the shot composition and the entire creation of this film. It is a masterpiece and one of my all time favorite movies, from the soundtrack to the performances it’s the closest thing I can think of to a perfect movie in my opinion.

Parasite (2019) dir. Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho was in the news a lot last year after his smash hit Parasite won the coveted Best Picture award at the 92nd Academy Awards. Honestly, it deserved every ounce of praise it received. The film is a dark, funny, sad, and terrifying depiction of class struggle with a very fascinating and unsettling twist. Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is a strikingly brilliant work of fiction. Most likely Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece and I don't doubt it'll stand the test of time.

Ghost In The Shell (1995) dir. Mamoru Oshii

Mamoru Oshii's Ghost In The Shell has got to be of my favorite animated movies of all time. The visuals are so striking, the dystopian atmosphere is so immersive and I love the art direction to a point where this might be the prettiest movie I've ever seen. Mamoru Oshii and crew really made something special and thought provoking with Ghost in the Shell, a film that discusses the limits of technology and mortality itself.

The staff here at want to wish all of our readers a happy AAPI heritage month. Check out some of these films this month and make sure to support all the Asian creatives in your life! Thanks for reading!

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