Every May we take extra time to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month by shining a light on AANHPI experiences and filmmakers.
Enjoy this selection of films, some premiering in May as well as some gems to revisit. These documentaries celebrate the light and love in our diverse AANHPI 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.
Why is AANHPI Heritage Month celebrated in May?
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. And that's why AANHPI Heritage Month is in May.
Documentaries Streaming in May Featuring Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Voices
Sentenced to life for a 1973 San Francisco murder, Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee was set free after a pan-Asian solidarity movement, which included Korean, Japanese, and Chinese Americans, helped to overturn his conviction. After 10 years of fighting for his life inside California state prisons, Lee found himself in a new fight to rise to the expectations of the people who believed in him.
See the world through the eyes of Nam June Paik, the father of video art and coiner of the term “electronic superhighway.” Born in Japan-occupied Korea, Paik went on to become a pillar of the American avant-garde and transformed modern image-making with his sculptures, films and performances. Experience his creative evolution, as Academy Award nominee Steven Yeun reads from Paik's own writings.
Co-founded by Filipina American and queer teenagers, Fanny is the first all women band to release an album with a major record label (Warner/Reprise, 1970). Revered by David Bowie, meet the most groundbreaking rock group you've never heard of... yet.
Filmmaker Crystal Kwok unpacks the history behind her grandmother’s family, who were neighborhood grocery store owners in the Black community of Augusta, Georgia during the Jim Crow era. By centering women’s experiences, Kwok poses critical questions around the intersections of race, power, and identity in the American South.
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.
Watch 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.Watch Pacific Heartbeat
Growing Up Asian | Stories from the Stage
Every day, millions of people are creating their own definitions of what it means to be Asian American. Suzanne works with a parents association to organize during Boston's busing desegregation crisis and gains strength from the women; David travels to China for the first time to connect with his roots; and after being held at gunpoint in her family’s store, Eson learns the definition of love.Watch Stories from the Stage
Watch more AANHPI documentaries with Passport
Narrated by Jason Momoa, discover the inspiring story and considerable impact of five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku. He shattered swimming records and globalized surfing while overcoming racism in a lifetime of personal challenges.
On a hot summer night in Detroit in 1982, Ronald Ebens, an autoworker, killed Vincent Chin, a young Chinese American engineer with a baseball bat. Although he confessed, he never spent a day in jail. This gripping Academy Award-nominated film relentlessly probes the implications of the murder, for the families of those involved, and for the American justice system.
The story of the author whose first novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Tan firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today.
Charles Chiu and his family’s search for their roots takes them on an eye-opening journey through the Mississippi Delta, uncovering otherwise unknown stories and the racially complex history of Chinese immigrants in the segregated South. This Chinese American family’s unforgettable story offers a poignant and important perspective on race relations, immigration and American identity.
Explore the survival of urban ethnic neighborhoods in three American cities: Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston.
With unparalleled access to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans, FIRST VOTE offers a character-driven verité look at Chinese American electoral organizing in North Carolina and Ohio. The film weaves their stories from the presidential election of 2016 to the 2018 midterms, and explores the intersections between immigration, voting rights and racial justice.
Stream any time on the PBS app
Relish shares stories of cultural heritage in Twin Cities communities through the universal language of food. In each episode, host Yia Vang of Union Hmong Kitchen takes viewers inside the home kitchens of local chefs as they serve up an ingredient or dish that has personal and cultural meaning to them.
Get an introduction to interesting people and riveting stories linked by a family recipe, starting from a base in Hawaii to locations such as Japan and Puerto Rico. Find the rich and sometimes surprising connections to a treasured family dish.
Host and chef Ed Kenney is the perfect guide for each episode's culinary journey. You can stream seasons 1 and 2 now, and stay tuned for season 3 coming later this year.Watch Family Ingredients
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.
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.
In this clip from the film (the full documentary is streaming in Passport) Norman Mineta recalls the bombing of Pearl Harbor when he was just 10 years old and its impact on Japanese-Americans.Watch the Full Episode
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 NewsHourWatch the full Episode
Lea Salonga in Concert | 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.Watch the full episode
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.