• Film

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. American Public Television has plenty to offer to immerse yourself in some of the high – and low points – in the often complicated but always fascinating relationship between those cultures. Here are five programs to watch out for:


Host Peter Barakan meets an artisan who recreates old craft items, performers with a new take on traditional singing and dancing, and a YouTuber who presents language lessons. The Ainu are the indigenous people of northern Japan who were once subjected to cultural assimilation policies, and many of their traditions were lost. The program celebrates efforts to restore their heritage and spearhead a movement to revive their cultural identity, heritage, and pride.


Filmmaker Day’s Lee shares 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 – in her documentary. As Chinese restaurants and the food they serve continue to evolve, the filmmaker explores how they played an important role in the social history of Chinese and Jewish communities, through interviews with customers and families who owned other restaurants.



A dark chapter in American history focusing on the experiences of Japanese Americans before, during and after WWII. In February 1942, just 10 weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of any or all people considered a threat to national security from designated military areas.

The documentary shows the experiences of Japanese Americans who were living in the San Joaquin Valley of California prior to its inception, as they discuss what drew them to the area, the businesses and farms their families established, and the discrimination many faced in their adopted land, as well as the friendships they formed. They also describe their shock and confusion in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and the tragic and disorienting uprooting of lives as families were forced to abandon their homes and move into temporary assembly centers before being sent to permanent internment camps.



Director Peter Rosen traces the artistic development of young pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii who, undeterred by his lifelong blindness, went on to become a world-famous pianist and a symbol of hope for all people with disabilities. Gifted with an early ability to play piano by ear, Tsujii won a gold medal in the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and eventually made his concert debut at Carnegie Hall in New York before going on a world tour. We watch Tsujii perform his own uplifting compositions, alongside those of Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Liszt, as he highlights the power of music in overcoming hardship. The cameras also go with him on a tour of the 2011 tsunami-devastated coastline of Japan.



An intimate profile of Vietnamese American chef, Tu David Phu, who returned home to Oakland, California, after competing in Season 15 of the hit cooking series, Top Chef, to refocus on the Vietnamese cuisine that made him so popular on the show. The documentary follows his bloodline as a California-born first-generation chef whose family comes from the island of Phu Quoc. Phu told ABC network in a 2021 interview, “I started cooking with my mom when I was five years old and had this amazing obsession with her food. She would let me taste things and that’s how I learned how to taste, not just cook.” After working at top restaurants including Chez Panisse, Daniel and Acquerello, Phu’s memory of those tastes motivated him to reconnect with his roots, using lessons learned in his family kitchen to enhance a new culinary repertoire based on the practices, ingredients, flavors and techniques of Vietnamese cuisine.


All programs are available from May 1. Check local listings for exact broadcast dates/times and also available to stream with Passport on pbs.org and the PBS App.

Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden is “only available to select licensing stations” (meaning viewers can only watch it, on broadcast or streaming, if their local station elected to schedule the program). All the other programs listed can be watched more accessibly on PBS.org/their app regardless of if a viewer’s local station purchased rights.