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An APIDA Watching Guide

May is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month. To celebrate, Culturas will be spotlighting the community’s culture and stories. To further explore Asian American voices and storytelling, here’s a list of six APIDA movies you should check out: 

  • Dangal (transl. wrestling match)

Dangal is a 2016 Indian biographical sports drama film directed by Nitesh Tiwari. It’s loosely based on the Phogat family, which consists of six sisters and cousins, Geeta, Babita, Priyanka, Ritu, Vinesh, and Sangita, who were trained to be wrestling champions by their father/uncle, Mahavir Singh, a former amateur wrestler. In the film, Singh was forced by his dad to give up the sport to get a “real,” well-paying job. Disappointed that his dreams of winning a medal country, he puts his unfulfilled hopes into his unborn son.  However, after having four daughters, he’s disheartened. Nevertheless, when he realizes that they can do whatever a boy would’ve been able to, he trains his two daughters, Geeta and Babita, to eventually become the champions he’d always aspired to be. Overall, Dangal is a heartwarming story about family, poignant father-daughter relationships, dreams and the hardship one goes through to make them happen and unbreakable strength. 

  • Chungking Express

Chungking Express is a 1994 romantic crime comedy-drama film written and directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. It intertwines the stories of two heartbroken Hong Kong cops: one, who pines after his ex-girlfriend with cans of pineapple, tokens of the love they once shared, he falls in love with a woman involved in some underground drug business, while the other cop falls for a waitress who works at the late-night restaurant he goes to. It tells the story of love and loss and longing through the cast’s dynamic performance and Kar-wai’s tenderly shot scenes amid the city’s bright fast-food joints, malls, and clubs. Watch Chungking Express and be totally transported into the world Kar-wai has carefully crafted, with its twists and turns and unmistakable heart. 

  • Still Walking

Still Walking is a 2008 Japanese film by Hirokazu Kore-eda that lovingly paints a portrait of a family in which each member is still going through their own grieving process twelve years after their eldest son/brother, Junpei, drowned while saving a stranger’s life. Kore-eda tenderly explores family dynamics and the thread that runs through each person, no matter their family’s situation. The film follows Kyohei and Toshiko, Junpei’s parents, who invite their surviving children for a family reunion and the rest of the family members’ pain that unfolds. All in all, Kore-eda has captured the intricacies that exist in memories, trauma, and rituals with this film, making for a delicate and heartwarming piece of work.

  • Cake

Cake is a 2018 Pakistani comedy-drama film directed by Asim Abbasi. The movie playfully toys the line between comedy and drama as it follows a pair of sisters–one who has left home and lives abroad and one who has stayed home–who are reunited around their father’s sickbed. It tells the story of the oftentimes ridiculous, yet complex family dynamics that are present in South Asian households as well as the universal stories of secrets coming out, inescapable bonds and love, and the way it can pervade all the gaps that loss leaves. Abbasi drew from his own familial experiences to tell the story of Cake, and it shows in the film’s authenticity, intricacies and honesty. Watch Cake to be transported through passages of time and familial conflict that ultimately ends in catharsis.

  • Lewat Djam Malam (shown internationally as After the Curfew)

Lewat Djam Malam is a 1954 Indonesian psychological drama film directed by Usmar Ismail and written by Arsul Sani. It’s a post-colonial tale that follows an ex-soldier who is unable to adjust back to civilian life after war. He’s shocked by the continued corruption and poor leadership in his country of Indonesia–a country that’s still under curfew after the revolution–and eventually finds himself running from the authorities following his vigilante actions. Praised for its realistic portrayal of soldiers and revolutionaries, Lewat Djam Malam is a story of identity, anger, corruption, and revolution that will shine a light on those who feel betrayed after fighting for the souls of their countries.

  • Tears of the Black Tiger or Fa Thalai Chon (transl. the heavens strike the thief)

Tears of the Black Tiger is a 2000 Thai action-adventure film written and directed by Wisit Sasanatieng. It tells the story of the doomed romance between Dum, a working-class outlaw, and Rumpole, the upper-class daughter of a provincial governor. The couple is kept apart for years, but their love goes on, and eventually, Dum releases all his suppressed anger and frustration and becomes a violent outlaw, the “Black Tiger,” looking to seek his revenge. Influenced by both 1960s and 19702 Thai action films, Revisionist Westerns and the romantic melodramas of the 1950s and 1960s, Tears of the Black Tiger is a film full of action, romance, and spirit.

Aarohi Sheth
Aarohi Sheth
Aarohi Sheth is a writer + artist originally from Houston, TX, currently pursuing a degree in journalism at the University of Southern California. She hopes to keep creating interdisciplinary work that pushes boundaries, empowers underrepresented communities and generates empathy in others.
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