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Ted Talks, documentaries, and more. Some are long, some are short, all are worth a watch for one reason or another.

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Asian AM Covid Stories

his unique series of mini-docs presented by Asian American Documentary Network offers a unique perspective of Asian Americans on the COVID-19 pandemic, adopting stories that are still largely invisible. By leaning into their strengths as documentarians of the Asian diaspora, the filmmakers offer perspectives that disrupt mainstream narratives about Asian communities. These short-form social media stories contribute to some much-needed representation of Asian American communities at this critical moment in history. The episode “Shu Mai Online” is directed by IDA Member Emory Chao Johnson.

Birth Control Your own Adventure

Told through intimate voice over, Birth Control Your Own Adventure tells the tale of one woman’s struggle with birth control and mental health, after being prescribed birth control pills at the age of 11 for managing endometriosis. Voice over is paired with moving images in vivid colors, an innovative video essay form that is the signature of Agha’s work. The film was picked up by New York Times Op-Docs in 2020, becoming one of its most viewed, with more than 12 million views on Facebook.

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Body Language

Like much of Agha’s work, the Body Language series breaks taboos around women’s bodies and the biases of the medical system, through pairing narration with vivid, modern visuals. Body Language: Painful Sex, is about a woman seeking help for a sexual disorder, only to be confronted with a medical system that repeatedly tells her her pain doesn’t exist.

Call Her Ganda

When Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transwoman, is brutally murdered by a U.S. Marine, three women intimately invested in the case; an activist attorney, a transgender journalist, and Jennifer’s mother, galvanize a political uprising, pursuing justice and taking on hardened histories of U.S. imperialism.

The 8 Radical Characters

Chineasy

For foreigners, learning to speak Chinese is a hard task. But learning to read the beautiful, often complex characters of the Chinese written language may be less difficult. ShaoLan walks through a simple lesson in recognizing the ideas behind the characters and their meaning — building from a few simple forms to more complex concepts. Call it Chineasy.

Deported

This five-part documentary for NBC News follows the fight to end the deportation of Cambodian refugees. Each section of the series has a different focus, covering the grassroots movements fighting for refugee rights and the appeals process for families denied visitation rights after deportation, as well as telling the story of a family enduring forced separation.

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Erika Lee’s Video Library

One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she is a Regents Professor, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and the Director of the Immigration History Research Center. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended Tufts University, and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She was recently elected into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, testified before Congress during its historic hearings on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans, was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, (also known as the nation’s “brainy award,”) and named President-Elect of the Organization of American Historians.

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Every Grain of Rice

In this video essay, Vietnamese Canadian documentarian Carol Nguyen, tells an intergenerational story of her family through footage and crisp audio of food preparation. The resulting short documentary feels experimental, haunting and ephemeral, with moments that verge on ASMR. Her most recent documentary, No Crying at the Dinner Table, won this year’s SXSW’s Documentary Short Award.

Halmoni

Halmoni tells the tale of 24-year-old Ju Hong’s first trip to South Korea in 13 years, in order to see his ailing 90-year-old grandmother. As a young immigrant on DACA, Hong was only able to visit the country of his birth and return to the United States thanks to advance parole for a “humanitarian” reason. The film remains an important and relevant watch, as DACA continues to be threatened by the Trump administration.ward.

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Say My Name

In response to xenophobic incidents at Columbia where East Asian name tags were ripped off in multiple residence halls, Chinese international students wanted to share these stories of their names.

Standing Above the Clouds

Standing Above the Clouds centers on a group of Hawaiian mother-daughter activists — the Ku Kia’i Mauna, or guardians of the mountain — as they work to protect their sacred Mauna a Wakea from the construction of an eighteen story telescope at its pristine northern plateau, a peak so tall it “stands above the clouds.” This beautiful intergenerational documentary weaves together protest in the land and in the courtroom, as the Ku Kia’i Mauna fight to protect their mountain.

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Strawberries Will Save the World

This delightful short documentary focuses on a woman with a peculiar hobby: A love of strawberries. This manifests in an affection for collecting strawberry paraphernalia — mugs, oven mitts, dresses, stationery — attending a meetup of strawberry lovers, and growing actual strawberry plants. In just five minutes, this Vimeo Staff Pick captures the way hobbies can be profoundly impacting, and a cornerstone of seeking a happy life.

Ulam: Main Dish

Alexandra Cuerdo’s Ulam: Main Dish is the first food documentary to focus on the rise of Filipino cuisine in American restaurants and households. Food has always been a central part Asian American culture, and while other Asian cuisines have taken off — both in the American restaurant landscape and as a subject of food documentaries — Ulam finally centers Filipino delicacies.

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