San Diego based organization Pacific Arts Movement (Pac Arts) will be bringing entertainment and education through movies throughout May. The month is Asian American and Pacific Island Heritage Month and Pac Arts features several films that highlight almost 100 years of history. With Covid-19 throwing off everyone’s plans, including SDAFF’s 10th Annual Spring Showcase, SDAFF Online May Madness is a festival that people can take part in their homes.

We took a look at the program and found ones that will interest our readers and those that like Japanese and/or Korean media. Do note that most of these will require either a purchase or rental. However, there will be some free short films and free alternative portals.


May 1st will start with a special screening of two “Asian Asmericans” episodes before its official release on PBS on May 11th. According to the documentary’s press release, it calls itself “the most ambitious television chronicle of the Asian American story in the United States”. It looks at how history and cultures changed as the first set Asian immigrants arrived to the country and what they faced to survive. In partnership with Visual Communications and their Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Virtual Showcase, there will be a Q&A after the screening with series producer Renee Tajima-Peña along with episode producers S. Leo Chiang and Grace Lee. The sneak peek will be available starting on 8AM PST and the Q&A will be at 5PM PST. Check out VC’s website for more information. For information on the documentary series can be found on PBS’s website.


1950’s

“Picture Bride”

This 1994 film from Director Kayo Hatta follows Riyo (Youki Kudoh, “Blood: The Last Vampire”) as she goes across the Pacific Ocean to be the husband of a man working in Hawaii. Her story is based off of the real picture brides who were in arranged marriages and initially saw their husbands first through photos.

“American Pastime”

Director Desmond Nakano’s 2007 film “American Pastime” brings a fictional tale based on events that happened at the Topaz War Relocation Center, an internment camp during World War II. The movie focuses on Lyle Nomura and his family as they must adapt after being sent to the camp, far from their bright life in Los Angeles. Facing oppression and racism, he uses his talent in baseball to fight them off.

“Resistance at Tule Lake”

Previously shown at SDAFF Spring Showcase 2017, Filmmaker Konrad Aderer brings the story of those that were sent to the Tule Lake Segregation Center during WWII. Unlike other internment prison camps, Tule Lake is where the “disloyals” stayed. The documentary brings out the voices that were suppressed and hid from history. Check out the film’s website for more information.

“The Crimson Kimono”

Pac Arts brings this film noir from Samuel Fuller. This black and white 1959 movie has two Korean War veterans who are detectives investigate the murder of stripper in Little Tokyo. Complications arise when both of them fall for an interviewee but the woman returns the same feelings to one of them. While they get closer to solving the case, a rift begins to divide the two detectives.


1960’s-1970’s

“First Person Plural”

Director Deann Borshay Liem turns the camera to herself as she finds out that her Korean birth mother is alive. She records her journey bringing her and her adopted American family together with the ones. For more information on this film, check out New Day Film’s website.
This film is available for free through Kanopy. Logging in will require either a public library card or university information.


1980’s-1990’s

“Seoul Searching”

Director Benson Lee’s 2015 film “Seoul Searching” is a comedy with music and drama based on a true story of foreign born Korean teens who attend a summer camp in Seoul to learn more about their culture. However the young adults discover other aspects about themselves during the program.

“Some Divine Wind”

This 1992 film brings a fictional tale of a family that have their bond tested when they discover a dark and tragic event in their past. The Japanese American son Ben struggles to understand his own identity when his American father reveals that he took part in a mission that destroyed Ben’s mother home village in Japan during WWII.

“Gook”

Pac Arts brings back Justin Chon’s 2017 film “Gook”. A derogatory word used to those of Asian descent, “Gook” is set in Los Angeles on the day of Rodney King’s verdict and the start of the 1992 LA riots. The film focuses on two Korean brothers trying to protect themselves and their store.
There will be a Q&A between Pac Arts founder Lee Ann Kim and filmmaker and lead actor Justin Chon during the third week of May. This film is also available for free on Kanopy.

“The House of Suh”

Director Iris K. Shim turned her first documentary “Of Kin and Kind” into the full feature “The House of Suh”, both telling the story of Andrew Suh. The man received a 100 year prison sentence for killing his sister’s fiancé, which she ordered him to do so. The film looks at the case and how it changed the lives of those affected. The film is available for free on Asian Crush.


2000’s-2020’s

Viewers will be able to catch an online screening of the anthology film “The Paradise We Are Looking For”. Previously shown at SDAFF 2019 and commissioned for its 20th anniversary, the movie has four different stories that surround a certain “paradise” of San Diego and some of the troubles within.
Pac Arts will be having a special Q&A with directors Norbert Sheih (“Two Miles East”), Quyên Nguyen-Le (“The Morning Passing on El Cajon Boulevard) and RJ Lozada (“Reunion”) as their closing event on May 31st. 


Those films were merely a handful out of the May Madness list. For more information and the complete set of moview, check out Pac Arts’s website and follow them for more news of their events.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Wash Your Hands.

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