Introduction to Literature: Genre: Beyond the 1 Inch Barrier: Asian and Asian American Film

Course Description

Palme d’Or and Academy Award winner (among several others) director BONG Joon-ho noted, “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films” (Academy Award 2020). The very next year the Golden Globes was spotlighted under the controversy of categorizing Minari (2021) as a foreign language film. Despite being a story about an Asian American family in the United States, the film was only recognized as “Best Foreign Language Film,” shelved behind the “one inch barrier” and its American story marginalized as foreign. Being thus categorized, and acknowledging English as the official American language, disregards the variety of non-English languages spoken within the United States alone.


This controversy brings into question what is understood as American and how Americans articulate their stories. Despite consisting 7% of the United States’ population (US Census), many Asian American stories are downplayed, strategically utilized, or even silenced. This course will focus on tracing two strands of Asian American film: representations of Asian Americans in dominant narratives and Asian American self-representation.


Each week will examine the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality on screen while also focusing on cinematography, narrative tools, and Hollywood strategies. We will begin by briefly tracing past challenges of Asian American representation, including cinematic language and questions of what constitutes the American language. Then we will further examine the ways in which Asian Americans have constructed and positioned their identities through film and built communities and activism through different mediums of popular culture. As we proceed, we will pay close attention to how recent filmmakers have decentered dominant narratives and are slowly changing the paradigm by foraging place for their stories in their American language. By the end of the course, students will be able to make connections between self-representations, dominant images of Asian Americans, and engage in questions of whose stories are told.



Course Materials

Required course readings will be posted through our course website, accessed through the library, or accessed through links provided in the syllabus.

Course Assignments

  1. Participation
  2. Film Review Log
  3. Response Posts
  4. Class Facilitation
  5. Midterm Presentation
  6. Final Project