Asian American ’80s

Asian American ’80s

7 Episodes

The 1980s marked the first decade of Asian American feature filmmaking—a period defined by restless thematic and stylistic exploration as trailblazing directors sought to express their complex cultural identity on-screen. In this decade, filmmakers like Wayne Wang (whose CHAN IS MISSING emerged as an indie landmark), Steven Okazaki, Peter Wang, and Kayo Hatta sought to define “Asian American” anew, whether through comedic contrast with Asians on the other side of the Pacific (THE GREAT WALL, LIVING ON TOKYO TIME), or via tender melodramas of the second generation (DIM SUM: A LITTLE BIT OF HEART, OTEMBA). Supported not only by the burgeoning American independent market of the 1980s, but also by new Asian American film festivals and media centers in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the films in this program—curated by Brian Hu—imagined for the first time what a community in the shadows might do with the spotlight.

Subscribe Share
Asian American ’80s
  • Asian American ’80s Teaser

    Episode 1

  • They Call Me Bruce

    Episode 2

    Directed by Elliott Hong • 1982 • United States
    Starring Johnny Yune, John Louie, Bill Capizzi

    This unabashedly goofball martial-arts spoof gave an Asian American comedian a rare chance in the spotlight. Stand-up comic Johnny Yune stars as a Korean immigrant living in California whom everyone ca...

  • West Is West

    Episode 3

    Directed by David Rathod • 1987 • United States
    Starring Ashutosh Gowariker, Heidi Carpenter, Pearl Padamsee

    Handsome and broke, Vikram (played by Ashutosh Gowariker, future director of the Oscar-nominated LAGAAN: ONCE UPON A TIME IN INDIA) arrives from Bombay to find his college plans have fall...

  • Community Plot

    Episode 4

    Directed by J. T. Takagi • 1984 • United States

    Four neighbors form an uneasy alliance after a case worker from family court is accidentally killed in their building. With a gutsy sense of humor, this satiric comedy captures the chaos and cultural diversity of New York’s Lower East Side.

  • Pak Bueng on Fire

    Episode 5

    Directed by Supachai Surongsain • 1987 • United States

    Two young Thai men struggle to survive in Los Angeles.

  • Otemba

    Episode 6

    Directed by Kayo Hatta • 1988 • United States

    Cultural traditions blend as a Japanese American family celebrates Christmas and a young girl tries to find her place within the family structure.

  • Two Lies

    Episode 7

    Directed by Pamela Tom • 1990 • United States
    Starring Sala Iwamatsu

    Doris Chu (Dian Kobayashi), a recently divorced Chinese American woman, has plastic surgery to make her eyes rounder. For her teenage daughter, Mei (Sala Iwamatsu), her mother’s two eyes equal two lies. When the family journeys...