To celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May, Cinema Asian America – featured with XFINITY On Demand– presents a collection of new, award-winning documentaries that dig deep into the hilarious, moving, infuriating, inspiring and tuneful heart of this Asian American life.
Leading the way are two profiles of trailblazing musicians who have reshaped the American sonic landscape. Fresh off of a wildly successful festival run is Tad Nakamura’s “Jake Shimabukaru: Life On Four Strings,” an intensely personal and revealing look at the life of the rock-star ukulele player from Hawaii, who vaulted to public attention with his viral YouTube rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Jim Choi and Chihiro Wimbush’s “Don’t Lose Your Soul,” digs deeper into history, with its look at bassist Mark Izu and drummer Anthony Brown, founding members of the Asian American Jazz Movement. Both titles are available to view for free on Comcast Video-On-Demand, courtesy of the Center for Asian American Media.
Another highlight is Debbie Lum’s fascinating, self-reflexive examination of race and dating, yellow-fever-style, “Seeking Asian Female.” Fresh from its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, “Seeking” is an eccentric modern love story about Steven and Sandy—an aging white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying any Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online.
Rounding out the selections are two must-see films that expose the complexities of the world around us. Frank Abe’s “Conscience and the Constitution” examines the deep schisms which opened in the Japanese American community during the its internment during WWII and which persist today – a reminder of the on-going national conversation around race, citizenship and civil liberties. John Shenk’s eye-opening portrait of former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, “The Island President” takes us to a story of the Asian diaspora, and one man’s fight to save his low-lying island nation from the rising waters of a warming planet.
All of these documentaries are available to view on Cinema Asian America on Xfinity On Demand, and both “Don’t Lose Your Soul” and “Jake Shumabukuro” are free this month to XFINITY subscribers.
Here is a full list (with descriptions):
Conscience and the Constitution, Director Frank Abe
This documentary delves into the heart of the Japanese American conscience and a controversy that continues today – when during World War II, a handful of young Americans refused to be drafted from an American concentration camp.
Don’t Lose Your Soul, Directors Jim Choi, Chihiro Wimbush
An intimate portrait of two godfathers of the Asian American Jazz movement, drummer Anthony Brown and bassist Mark Izu. Forged in the Bay Area civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s and built on the history of Japanese internment, they fused centuries old Asian music traditions with the freedom of a quintessentially American musical form: jazz. Izu and Brown come together with a group of longtime musical friends for one electrifying night of music at Yoshi’s jazz club, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Asian American Jazz festival and honor three decades of music they helped define for future generations.
The Island President, Director John Shenk
After bringing democracy to his country, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, the lowest-lying country in the world, takes up the fight to keep his homeland from disappearing under the sea. Watch on your TV.
Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, Director Tad Nakamura
Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings is a compelling portrait of an inspiring and inventive musician whose virtuoso skills on the ukulele have transformed all previous notions of the instrument’s potential. Through intimate conversations with Shimabukuro, Life on Four Strings reveals the cultural and personal influences that have shaped the man and the musician. On the road from Los Angeles to New York to Japan, the film captures the solitary life on tour: the exhilaration of performance, the wonder of newfound fame, the loneliness of separation from home and family. Get more here.
Seeking Asian Female, Director Debbie Lum
An eccentric modern love story about Steven and Sandy—an aging white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying any Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online. Debbie, a Chinese American filmmaker, documents and narrates with skepticism and humor, from the early stages of Steven’s search, through the moment Sandy steps foot in America for the first time, to a year into their precarious union. Global migration, Sino-American relations and the perennial battle of the sexes, weigh in on the fate of their marriage in this intensely captivating personal documentary. Get more here.
The 2012 Who’s Who in the Asian American Communities Awards
The captivating awards gala ceremony for the 2012 Who’s Who in Asian American Communities Awards, held in Atlanta, Georgia.