First-Person Asian American: 11 Documentaries

First-Person Asian American: 11 Documentaries

11 Episodes

As independent Asian American filmmakers took the matter of self-representation into their own hands, many turned inward: to their own families, personal histories, and private musings. Some used their own experiences to stand for the larger Asian American community, whose stories were written out of the mainstream, while others gave intimate expression to their own idiosyncratic perspectives. Using lightweight film and video cameras, many of these filmmakers turned to the travelogue format to document family reunions or cross-country or transpacific journeys, finding in their travels across geographies and cultures the full richness and complexity of the Asian American experience.

Programmed by Brian Hu

Subscribe Share
First-Person Asian American: 11 Documentaries
  • Who’s Going to Pay for These Donuts Anyway?

    Episode 1

    Directed by Janice Tanaka • 1992 • United States

    Through a brilliant collage of interviews, family photographs, archival footage and personal narration, Japanese American video artist Janice Tanaka documents her search for her father after a forty-year separation. The two reunited when Tanaka fo...

  • a.k.a. Don Bonus

    Episode 2

    Directed by Spencer Nakasako and Sokly Ny • 1995 • United States
    Starring Sokly Ny

    Working in collaboration with veteran filmmaker Spencer Nakasako, Sokly Ny (a.k.a. “Don Bonus”), an eighteen-year-old Cambodian refugee growing up in public housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, documents his sen...

  • My America . . . or Honk If You Love Buddha

    Episode 3

    Directed by Renee Tajima-Peña • 1997 • United States
    Starring Renee Tajima-Peña, Victor Wong

    Intoxicating and irreverent, Renee Tajima-Peña’s award-winning documentary takes inspiration from Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” recapturing the novel’s spirit in a fresh and different journey through a n...

  • First Person Plural

    Episode 4

    Directed by Deann Borshay Liem • 2000 • United States
    Starring Deann Borshay Liem

    In 1966, Deann Borshay Liem was adopted by an American family and sent from Korea to her new home. Growing up in California, the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated, until recurring dreams lead Deann ...

  • I Was Born, But . . .

    Episode 5

    Directed by Roddy Bogawa • 2004 • United States

    Taking its title from a silent classic by Yasujiro Ozu, this uncompromisingly personal diary film from Roddy Bogawa finds the director journeying through his memories, from his childhood in Hawaii to his involvement in the LA punk scene of the 1970...

  • Oh, Saigon

    Episode 6

    Directed by Doan Hoang • 2007 • United States
    Starring Nam Hoang, Van Tran, Anne Hoang

    Doan Hoang’s family was airlifted out of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, on the last civilian helicopter to leave the country at the end of the Vietnam War. Years later, she sets out to uncover their story. Her fat...

  • When I Walk

    Episode 7

    Directed by Jason DaSilva • 2013 • United States
    Starring Alice Cook, Jason DaSilva

    Facing a life-altering multiple-sclerosis diagnosis at age twenty-five, filmmaker Jason DaSilva picked up a camera, turned it on his declining body, and set out on a worldwide journey in search of healing, self-d...

  • Twinsters

    Episode 8

    Directed by Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto • 2015 • United Kingdom
    Starring Anaïs Bordier, Samantha Futerman, Kanoa Goo

    In February 2013, Anaïs Bordier, a French fashion student living in London, stumbled upon a YouTube video featuring Samantha Futerman, an actress in Los Angeles, and was s...

  • 95 and 6 to Go

    Episode 9

    Directed by Kimi Takesue • 2016 • United States

    Filmmaker Kimi Takesue finds an unlikely collaborator while visiting her grandfather Tom in Hawai’i. A recent widower in his nineties, Tom seems content to go about his daily routines until he shows surprising interest in his granddaughter’s stalle...

  • No Data Plan

    Episode 10

    Directed by Miko Revereza • 2019 • United States

    Having lived as an undocumented person in the United States for over twenty years, Filipino American filmmaker Miko Revereza sets out on a three day journey by train from Los Angeles to New York—an anxious odyssey through a succession of transit z...

  • Wisdom Gone Wild

    Episode 11

    Directed by Rea Tajiri • 2022 • United States
    Starring Rose Noda, Rea Tajiri

    In this moving and original reflection on mortality and transformation, Rea Tajiri partners with her mother, Rose Tajiri Noda, to create a film about the final sixteen years of her life as a person living with dementia...