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By Lee Hirsch

Watching Lee Hirsch’s film Bully with my teenage daughter was not easy, but I knew I could benefit from her perspective. Off the bat, the film tackled a sorrowful family’s experience with the suicide of their teenage son.


Ban THat Scene!

Director Htun Zaw Win

YANGON, Myanmar — When Burmese filmmaker Htun Zaw Win decided to make a short comedy about the tragically bizarre process of getting movies made in his oppressed homeland, he knew exactly what to base it on: real life.


You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story

Directed by Jeff Adachi

Positive images and portrayals of Asian-American males are a rare sight in mainstream media, even today. Beyond martial-arts heroes and brainy, nerdy sidekicks, film and television roles involving Asian-American men who transcend those stereotypes are few and far between. That’s why Jeff Adachi’s documentary You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story is an important telling of the life of a highly talented comedian, singer, and actor who broke through traditional portrayals.


Directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara

The hard part about watching the documentary film Bhutto is seeing Benazir Bhutto make decisions to pursue political aims, all the while knowing every one of them is leading inexorably to her assassination in 2007. The upside is the film’s insight into the life and death of a remarkable woman — the first ever to serve as the head of a Muslim-majority nation — as well as the politically tumultuous country of Pakistan.

Born to be Wild

Directed by David Lickley

This story is like a fairytale," narrator Morgan Freeman introduces Born to be Wild, "except it’s completely true." The story of more than 300 orphaned orangutans, over 200 orphaned elephants, and two real live fairy godmothers, this IMAX film is as much a marvel of cinematography and screenwriting as it is of responsibility and compassion. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, Born to be Wild — shown in 3-D — will stir you, and perhaps even provoke you to action. Don’t miss it.

Enemies of the People

Directed and produced by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath

Between 1975 and 1979, nearly two million people, approximately a quarter of Cambodia’s population, perished, victims of execution and starvation, at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. A decade in the making, Enemies of the People is the story of a journalist’s quest to find out why, but this astonishing documentary is much more than an examination of atrocity set against the peaceful bucolic landscapes of contemporary Cambodia. It is journalism raised to dizzying heights, a record of patience, kindness, and forbearance in which ultimately even terror dissolves.


Directed by Koji Fukada

Little Mei is happy the New Year is approaching, but she is not content to celebrate a holiday she doesn’t know the reason for, so she asks. And asks. And asks. Celebrating the Chinese New Year is the story of a little girl’s inquisitiveness and persistence, and those of us who are acquainted with little people unaccustomed to settling for the first answer they get to an important question will see our young loved ones in wonderful Little Mei.

The Housemaid

Directed by Sang-soo Im

She’s like Dostoevsky’s Idiot," says Mi-hee (Ji-young Park) when describing the childish, all-too-trusting protagonist of The Housemaid. But like the nihilists the Russian author railed against, this slick new thriller by director Sang-soo Im — recently screened as part of the 34th annual Portland International Film Festival — lambastes modern Korean society without offering even a faint glimmer of hope.

The Island President

Directed by Jon Shenk

The Maldives, a nation of 2,000 tiny islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is a place of surreal beauty, tragic history, and cutting-edge thought. For some, global warming is a troubling concept. For others, it is a conspiracy. But for the entire population of this country that lies 1.5 meters above sea level, global warming is a matter of life and death.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Directed by David Gelb

David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a love story about one man’s lifelong affair with his craft. Not simply an ode to what is arguably the best sushi restaurant in the world, the film is an aesthetic, well-crafted delight that interlaces elegant sushi creations, heartfelt interviews, and a classical score befitting the works of a master shokunin (sushi craftsman).

Journey of The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Directed by David Petersen

I didn’t know my grandmother’s real name until the day my mother died," confides Amy Tan, author of the novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter and librettist for the opera of the same name. "My grandmother was raped by a man who was well-to-do, and she had nowhere else to go, she had lost face, and she had to join this man’s household because she was now pregnant. She found the only way she could gain her power was to kill herself."

Kung Fu Panda 2

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Three years after the wildly successful summer debut of Kung Fu Panda, Po and the Furious Five are back in a sequel that explores themes of pride, kinship, and inner peace.

Time has passed since Po (Jack Black) harnessed the power of the Dragon Scroll to become the leader of the Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Mantis (Seth Rogen) — and the lovably clueless panda is excited for his next adventure. What he doesn’t know is that a scuffle with some unruly wolves will eventually lead to the group’s quest to save China and kung fu — and force Po to confront his past.


The Learning

Directed by Ramona Diaz

Globalization, immigration, poverty in urban America — to say that P.O.V.’s The Learning tackles complex problems is an understatement.

Through the stories of newly arrived teachers from a small island nation in Asia, The Learning tells of four Filipina women facing their first year teaching in Baltimore’s schools. Their stories reflect the Philippines’ colonial history. In 1898, when the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, American teachers set up the country’s public school system, establishing English as the language of instruction for math and science. Today, there is a large pool of trained, motivated, English-speaking teachers, especially in high school math, science, and special education.


Made in India

Produced and directed by Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha

For many people, becoming a parent is extraordinarily important. When biology disrupts plans for parenthood, some folks try increasingly extreme and expensive measures to become pregnant, such as fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization (IVF). When these treatments fail, prospective parents may consider giving up their dream, becoming a parent through adoption, or employing a surrogate — a woman who agrees to carry an embryo to term for them.

Mutant Girls Squad

Directed by Tak Sakaguchi, Noboru Iguchi, and Yoshihiro Nishimura

Mutant Girls Squad is the self-indulgent vision of Tak Sakaguchi (Samurai Zombie), Noboru Iguchi (The Machine Girl), and Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police). The three directors met at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival. Over drinks, they discovered a shared love for over-the-top bloodshed and mutated beauties. They decided on a plot and each began working on a third of the movie. When their work was brought together, Mutant Girls Squad was born.

Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula

Directed by Lisette Marie Flanary

Dare to hula. Leave your shame at home," an old Hawai’ian proverb encourages. Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula follows Robert Cazimero — legendary master teacher and founder of Na Kamalei, the only all-male hula school in Hawai’i — and his dancers as they celebrate the school’s 30th anniversary in preparation for the largest hula competition in the world, the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.

Soul of Sand

Directed by Sidharth Srinivasan

Melodramatic violence, unsavory sex, and a heavy-handed message might make you consider giving this one a pass, but if you’ve got the stomach for it, Soul of Sand is a fascinating, even likeable, film.


They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain

By Robert Lieberman

WASHINGTON — American professor Robert Lieberman went to Myanmar (also known as Burma) to train local filmmakers and shot his own documentary on the sly. The solo-filmed They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain pries the lid off daily life in what has long been one of the world’s most isolated and repressed places, examining its grinding poverty and tragic decades of military rule.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives slowly and meticulously deliberates concepts of reincarnation and reality. While the polarizing film won the Palme d’Or ("Golden Palm") prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, critics and audiences alike cannot seem to agree on its merits.