TV Watch List for AAPI Heritage Month

by Kevin Johnson


Center for Asian American Media offers this TV watch list for the month of May

The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu | Pacific Heartbeat

May 2 on TV, online & on the PBS app

On Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach stand four large stones that represent a Hawaiian tradition of healing and gender diversity that is all but unknown to the millions of locals and tourists passing by. According to legend, the stones are a tribute to four mahu, people of dual male and female spirit, who brought the healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii and used their spiritual power to cure disease.

Asian American Stories of Resilience and Beyond

Tuesdays beginning May 3 on the YouTube & PBS apps

Over the past few years, Asian Americans faced a double pandemic of COVID-19 and anti-Asian racism. Produced in partnership with Asian American Documentary Network and presented in partnership with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), seven shorts showcase a mix of perspectives from emerging to established AAPI filmmakers, from a diverse range of AAPI communities and geographic regions, covering topics that move beyond the pandemic and reflect the complexities of AAPI experiences.

Try Harder! | Independent Lens

 May 4 on TV and the PBS App

At Lowell High School, San Francisco’s academic pressure cooker, the kids are stressed out. With a majority Asian American student body, high-achieving seniors share their dreams and anxieties about getting into a top university. But is college worth the grind?

Waterman – Duke: Ambassador of Aloha | American Masters

May 14 on TV and the PBS app

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.

Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation

May 16 on TV

A raw, inspiring window into 5.4 million children stepping forward as frontline heroes. Caring for family with tough medical conditions, they stay at home doing things often seen only in hospitals. They are cheerleaders, work part-time, go to college and live double lives quietly growing up as America’s next greatest generation.

Geographies of Kinship | America ReFramed

May 19 on TV, online & on the PBS app

In Deann Borshay Liem’s Geographies of Kinship, the complex personal histories of four adult adoptees born in South Korea are weaveed together with the rise of the country’s global adoption program. Raised in foreign families, each adoptee sets out on a journey to reconnect with their roots, mapping the geographies of kinship that bind them to a homeland they never knew.

A Tale of Three Chinatowns | Local, USA

May 23 on TV, online & on the PBS & YouTube apps

Exploring the survival of urban ethnic neighborhoods in three American cities: Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston. Through the voices of residents, community activists, developers and government officials, the film looks at the forces altering each community and the challenges that go with them, including the pressing issue of urban development and gentrification.

Asian Voices | Stories from the Stage

May 23 on TV, online & on the Facebook, YouTube & PBS apps

Every day, millions of people are creating their own definitions of what it means to be Asian American. And to do this, they rely on history, culture, family and friends to deal with their dual identities. Tellers share stories that speak to the richness and variety of the Asian American experience.

Chinatown Rising | America ReFramed
May 24 on TV, online & on the PBS app

Weaving together never-before-seen archival footage and photographs, Chinatown Rising reveals a deeply personal portrait of a San Francisco neighborhood in transition. Chinatown activists of the 1960s reflect on their years as young residents waging battles for bilingual education, tenants’ rights and ethnic studies curriculum that would shape their community and nation.

Plague at the Golden Gate | American Experience

May 28 on TV & the PBS app

The film takes us back to turn-of-the 20th-century San Francisco, when a deadly outbreak of bubonic plague in the city’s Chinatown and the hunt to identify its source led to an all-too-familiar spate of violent anti-Asian sentiment.

Asian Americans

Sundays on TV beginning May 1 | Available online & on the PBS app through May 31

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.

Curtain Up! | America ReFramed

Available online & on the PBS app through May 10

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.

Far East Deep South | America ReFramed

Available on PBS Passport

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.

First Vote | America ReFramed

Available on PBS Passport

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.

High Tide Don’t Hide | Pacific Heartbeat

Available online & on the PBS app

In the race for existence, striking teenagers discover that activism, authority and awareness make for a steep learning curve. Determined to provoke real action, New Zealand teenagers join the global School Strike for Climate. But planning a movement and building momentum are the easy parts as they face political indifference, their own white privilege, and the ongoing struggle to be heard.

Jaddoland | America ReFramed

May 12 on TV | Available on PBS Passport

Nadia Shihab’s Jaddoland is an intimate portrait of the work and process of the director’s visual artist mother Lahib Jaddo. The film offers viewers a fresh look at the immigrant story in America. Through an exploration of her mother’s art and connections to her life in Texas, Shihab also drafts a unique picture of how art can help both the creator and the audience make sense of familial and cultural connections, loss, perseverance and life.

James & Isey | Pacific Heartbeat

Available online & on the PBS app

Genuine New Zealand treasures Isey and her son James invite viewers into their lives in the week leading up to Isey’s 100th birthday and its shaping up to be quite the party. The episode captures a Northland celebration of life and aroha (love) like no other.

The Last Season | America ReFramed

Available online through May 28

Each September, the town of Chemult, Oregon is flooded with mushroom hunters. Many are immigrants from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand who entered the U.S. as refugees in the 1980s. Here, veterans Kouy Loch and Roger Higgins find more than just the rare matsutake in the woods; they create a familial bond and a means to slowly heal the wounds of war.

Loimata, the Sweetest Tears | Pacific Heartbeat

Available online & on the PBS app

Featuring the redemptive tale of waka builder and captain Lilo Ema Siope’s final years, “Loimata, The Sweetest Tears” is a chronicle of journeys – journeys of migration, spirituality, voyaging, healing and coming home. Confronting intergenerational trauma head on, the Siope family returns to their homeland of Sâmoa.

This post originally appeared on ImmigrationProf Blog Reprinted with permission.


About The Author

Kevin Johnson is Dean, Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law, and Professor of Chicana/o Studies. He joined the UC Davis law faculty in 1989 and was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 1998. Johnson became Dean in 2008. He has taught a wide array of classes, including immigration law, civil procedure, complex litigation, Latinos and Latinas and the law, and Critical Race Theory. In 1993, he was the recipient of the law school's Distinguished Teaching Award.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.