Skip Navigation

Documentaries to watch for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2023

Throughout May on KERA TV, dive into documentaries featuring Asian American and Pacific Islander history and perspectives. Why is AAPI heritage celebrated in May? Learn about the month’s significance to Asian American history.

▸ Many of the documentaries on this list can also be streamed in our video portal or on the PBS app. Some are free to watch and others are available using the Passport member benefit. Learn more about Passport.

Rising Against Asian Hate: One Day in March

▸ Tuesday, May 2 at 9 p.m.
▸ Thursday, May 4 at 11 p.m.

Explore the fight against Asian American hate following the March 2021 mass shootings at three spas in Atlanta. Examine how this critical moment of racial reckoning sheds light on the struggles, triumphs and achievements of AAPI communities. The film is narrated by Sandra Oh with music by Jon Batiste and Cory Wong.

See KERA News commentary from 2021: Asian American journalists in North Texas reflect on the Atlanta killings & covering anti-Asian hate

Asian Americans

Breaking Ground: Wednesday, May 3 at 10 p.m.
A Question of Loyalty: Wednesday, May 3 at 11 p.m.
Good Americans: Wednesday, May 10 at 10 p.m.
Generation Rising: Wednesday, May 10 at 11 p.m.
Breaking Through: Wednesday, May 17 at 10 p.m.

This documentary series explores the question: As America becomes more diverse – and more divided – how do we move forward together? Told through intimate personal stories, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played.

Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden

▸ Tuesday, May 9, 10 p.m.
▸ Thursday, May 11, 11 p.m.

Filmmaker Day’s Lee recalls her memories of her family’s restaurant Lee’s Garden, one of the first Chinese restaurants to open outside of Montreal’s Chinatown in the 1950s. It explores how early restaurants like this one played an important role in the social history of Chinese and Jewish communities.

South by South Korea | Reel South

▸ Tuesday, May 9 at 11 p.m.

This Reel South episode showcases two films about the historical and contemporary currents connecting the American South and the Korean Peninsula. From stories about one restaurant’s overnight fame and the perils of celebrity culture (Ten by Ten), and another chronicling the overlooked crises of motherhood and adoption (The Space Between You and Me), comes a clearer complexion of Korean-American life at home and abroad.

Waterman – Duke: Ambassador of Aloha | American Masters

▸ Monday, May 15 at 10:30 p.m.

Narrated by Jason Momoa, discover the inspiring story and considerable impact of five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku. He shattered swimming records and globalized surfing while overcoming racism in a lifetime of personal challenges.

Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV | American Masters

▸ Tuesday, May 16 at 8 p.m.

See the world through the eyes of Nam June Paik, the father of video art and coiner of the term “electronic superhighway.” Born in Japan-occupied Korea, Paik went on to become a pillar of the American avant-garde and transformed modern image-making with his sculptures, films and performances. Experience his creative evolution, as Academy Award nominee Steven Yeun reads from Paik’s own writings.

Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story

▸ Wednesday, May 17 at 11 p.m.

Meet the statesman who served as cabinet secretary for Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Imprisoned by the U.S. during World War II for his Japanese ancestry, Mineta rose to become the first Asian American to serve in a presidential cabinet.

Shohei Ohtani: A Baseball Virtuoso

Screenshot still of baseball player Shohei Ohtani

▸ Thursday, May 18 at 11 p.m.

NHK has followed baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani closely since his 2018 Major League debut. This film looks at Ohtani’s ability to both pitch and bat at the highest level. We hear from those who have supported him on and off the field and examine the importance of his father’s training regime. Join us behind the scenes at such pivotal points as Ohtani’s battle to recover from elbow surgery and reclaim his place as a baseball virtuoso like no other.

Fanny: The Right to Rock

▸ Monday, May 22 at 9 p.m.
▸ Thursday, May 25 at 11 p.m.

Co-founded by Filipina American sisters, Fanny is a ferocious ’70s rock band. It was the first all-women band to release an album with a major record label (Warner/Reprise, 1970). Revered by David Bowie, meet the most groundbreaking rock group you’ve never heard of … yet.

Tyrus | American Masters

▸ Monday, May 22 at 10:30 p.m.

Until his death at the age of 106, Tyrus Wong was America’s oldest living Chinese American artist and one of the last remaining artists from the golden age of Disney animation. The quiet beauty of his Eastern-influenced paintings had a pioneering impact on American art and popular culture.

The Registry

▸ Wednesday, May 24 at 10 p.m.

This film breaks open the hidden history of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service during World War II – a story made possible because of a few aging Japanese American veterans with a little internet savvy and a lot of determination.

Betrayed: Surviving an American Concentration Camp

▸ Wednesday, May 24 at 11 p.m.

Discover the story of a group of Japanese Americans and their incarceration by the U.S. government during World War II. Through the compelling voices of survivors of Minidoka, a concentration camp in the Idaho desert, Betrayed tells a universal story about unjust incarceration and the loss of civil rights.

The Donut King| Independent Lens

▸ Monday, March 29 at 9:30 p.m.

An immigrant story with a (glazed) twist! The Donut King follows the journey of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy, who arrived in California in the 1970s and, through a mixture of diligence and luck, built a multi-million dollar donut empire up and down the West Coast.

Seadrift | Reel South

▸ Tuesday, May 30 at 11 p.m.

In 1979, a fatal shooting ignites a maelstrom of hostilities against Vietnamese refugee fishermen in Seadrift, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. Set during the early days of Vietnamese refugee arrival in the U.S., Seadrift examines this turbulent yet little-seen chapter of American history and explores its consequences that continue to reverberate today.


Explore more videos that celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage

Enjoy this care package – poems, meditations, films and other cultural nutrients – curated by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

▸ Educators — access PBS LearningMedia’s teaching resources tied to the Asian Americans documentary series

▸ Listen to KERA Think podcasts about identity and race

▸ Read about KERA’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion