Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month | May 2022

Documentaries and programs that celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.
Published on May 01, 2022 | Last updated on November 10, 2022 by Beatrice Alvarez

Every May we take extra time to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month by shining a light on AAPI experiences and filmmakers. Why May? you ask. In 1977 the U.S. Congress (spearheaded by Representative Frank Horton of New York and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawai'i) chose the first ten days of May to commemorate the history and contributions of Asian American communities here in the U.S. The week's observance became a month, the very month in which the first Japanese immigrants came to the U.S. in 1843. We also commemorate the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 as the majority of workers who laid those railroad tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Enjoy this collection of films premiering this month as well as some gems to revisit. These documentaries celebrate the light and love in our diverse AAPI communities. We also recognize the need to face ugly truths about events of racism, xenophobia, and violence targeted towards AAPI communities. When we are honest about the past, we can begin to heal from the wounds of hate and in doing so, make a better future together.

Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story

We honor the life and legacy of Norman Y. Mineta, who passed away on May 3, 2022. May he rest in peace.

You can learn more about the statesman who served as cabinet secretary for Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Imprisoned by the U.S. during World War II for his Japanese ancestry, Mineta rose to become the first Asian American to serve in a presidential cabinet.

Stream until May 10: Curtain Up!

From America ReFramed:

In New York City's Chinatown, the theater club of PS 124 is staging an adaptation of the film "Frozen.” As the 5th graders gear up and rehearse for the musical production, nervous excitement and flubbed lines brush up against cultural stereotypes, family expectations, and post-graduation uncertainties. CURTAIN UP! shares a kid’s-eye view of the wonders of discovering art, culture and identity.

Watch Season 11 of Pacific Heartbeat

Pacific Heartbeat is a national public television series of critically acclaimed documentaries that provides an authentic glimpse into the Pacific Islander experience. Creative and beautifully told stories about arts, culture and intimate human stories, the series features a diverse array of programs intended to draw viewers into the heart and soul of Pacific Island culture.

Watch The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu, a film from Pacific Heartbeat that explains the four large stones on Honolulu's famous Waikiki Beach that represent a Hawaiian tradition of healing and gender diversity.

Support your local PBS station in our mission to inspire, enrich, and educate.

A Celebration of the AA and NHPI Community

A Celebration of the AA and NHPI Community: Highlighting Our Diverse Tapestry brings Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders together to celebrate across their communities, uplift their voices, and look toward a future of healing and strength. Hosted by Amna Nawaz of the PBS NewsHour


Lea Salonga in Concert

From Great Performances:

Captured in peak performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga performs the beloved songs she made famous throughout her Broadway career, as well as her signature songs from the animated movie blockbusters “Aladdin” and “Mulan” from the Sydney Opera House.


A People's History of Asian America

Produced in partnership by the Center for Asian American Media and PBS Digital Studios, A People’s History of Asian America tells the history of Asian Americans through the microaggressions and stereotypes this community faces.

In this episode, Hosts Dolly Li and Adrian De Leon hear from South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander voices to explore the pros and cons of disaggregating Asian American as a statistical category.

Out of State | Stream until May 14th

From Independent Lens:

In Out of State, two native Hawaiians sent thousands of miles away to a private prison in the desert find a community of other native Hawaiians and discover indigenous traditions from a fellow inmate serving a life sentence. After finishing their terms and returning to Hawai'i, the men both find life on the outside a struggle and wonder if it’s possible to ever go home again.

Stream the five-part series: Asian Americans

Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate personal stories, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played.

You can watch the first episode here: