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Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with WTTW in 2022

Daniel Hautzinger
Duke Kahanamoku in Hollywood. Photo: The Paragon Agency
Swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku, the subject of 'American Masters – Waterman-Duke: The Spirit of Aloha,' in Hollywood. Photo: The Paragon Agency

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and WTTW has an exciting slate of programming to celebrate and honor Asian American and Pacific Islander stories. From an Olympic medal-winning, innovative swimmer and surfer to a terrifying outbreak of bubonic plague that unleashed fear, tales from New Zealand and Samoa to the shameful chapter of Japanese American internment camps, there is a lot to learn, savor, and explore. 

Pacific Heartbeat

Sundays at 10:00 am beginning May 1 on WTTW; Saturdays at 10:00 am beginning May 7 on WTTW Prime

In the eleventh season of Pacific Heartbeat, travel to New Zealand and Samoa for climate action, a 100th birthday, and intergenerational stories.  

The tenth and eleventh seasons are available to stream for free, any time. 

American Masters – Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

Sunday, May 1 at 11:00 am on WTTW

The story of the author whose first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was published to great commercial and critical success. Tan has firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today.

WTTW Passport members can stream the documentary now. 

Independent Lens – Try Harder!

Monday, May 2 at 10:00 pm on WTTW and Saturday, May 7 at 1:00 pm on WTTW Prime

San Francisco's Lowell High, one of the best public schools in the country, draws high achievers from across the city into a fiercely competitive universe. Nearly 70 percent are Asian Americans. Follow seniors as the pressure to impress admissions officers at elite universities intensifies.

Finding Your Roots: Reporting on Reporters

Tuesday, May 3 at 8:00 pm on WTTW and Wednesday, May 4 at 6:00 am on WTTW Prime

Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shows journalists Christiane Amanpour, Ann Curry, and Lisa Ling that the stories within their own family trees are every bit as compelling as the news stories they have been covering for the world.

The Registry

Sunday, May 8 at 12:00 pm on WTTW

This documentary tells the story of World War II veterans who served in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service (the M.I.S.), made up of Japanese-Americans who fought in the Pacific against the Japanese enemy. The film profiles a few from the registry as they tell stories they've never shared until now, recalling their loyalty to a country while facing racism and the mass internment in the U.S. of people of Japanese descent.

The documentary is available to stream by WTTW Passport members.

American Experience – Mr. Tornado

Sunday, May 8 at 1:00 pm on WTTW

Meet pioneering meteorologist Ted Fujita, who transformed our understanding of tornados. His technological advancements saved lives and helped Americans prepare for and respond to dangerous weather phenomena.

Read an interview with a colleague of Fujita's at the University of Chicago about the man himself.

The documentary is available to stream any time.

American Masters – Waterman-Duke: The Spirit of Aloha

Tuesday, May 10 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and Saturday, May 14 at 2:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Discover the inspiring story and considerable impact of five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku in this documentary narrated by Jason Momoa. Kahanamoku shattered swimming records and globalized surfing while overcoming racism in a lifetime of personal challenges.

Betrayed: Surviving an American Concentration Camp

Tuesday, May 10 at 10:30 pm on WTTW

The story of a group of Japanese Americans and their incarceration by the U.S. government during World War II, that also explores the long-term effects of this incarceration and the phenomenon of intergenerational trauma.

Learn about a series of hearings on Japanese internment that took place at Chicago's Northeastern Illinois University. 

The documentary will be available to stream beginning May 1.

Unsettled History: America, China and the Doolittle Tokyo Raid

Saturday, May 14 at 1:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Examine a key moment in American-Chinese history from the perspectives of the children of both the "Doolittle Raiders" and the Chinese villagers who aided in their rescue. 

The documentary is available to stream by WTTW Passport members. 


Saturday, May 14 at 3:30 pm on WTTW Prime

The son of refugees who grew up in West Oakland to become a professional chef, Tu David Phu's acclaimed culinary creations are heralded as the next wave of Asian fusion representing Vietnamese culture. 

WTTW Passport members can stream Bloodline now.

Japan with Sue Perkins

Sundays at 6:00 pm beginning May 15 on WTTW

Sue Perkins explores a country caught between ancient tradition and dazzling technology: Japan. She visits Tokyo, travels to mountainous villages, and meets the artisans finding new ways to preserve ancient traditions. 

American Experience – Tyrus Wong

Tuesday, May 17 at 10:00 pm on WTTW and Saturday, May 21 at 2:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Discover the art, life and enduring impact of Tyrus Wong, the renowned Chinese-American painter behind Bambi and Rebel Without a Cause, via new and never-before-seen interviews, movie clips and art. Wong once exhibited with Picasso and Matisse.

Meet other Disney animators who created beloved cartoons, as well as other artists who lived and worked past their hundredth birthdays.

Shinmachi: Stronger Than a Tsunami

Saturday, May 21 at 12:00 pm on WTTW Prime

On the morning of April 1, 1946, a deadly tsunami reduced Shinmachi, a unique Japanese community in Hilo, Hawaii, to rubble. 

The documentary is available to stream now by WTTW Passport members.

Touching the Sound

Saturday, May 21 at 1:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Trace the artistic development of blind pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, including as he tours areas of Japan devastated by the 2011 tsunami.

American Experience – Plague at the Golden Gate

Tuesday, May 24 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and Wednesday, May 25 at 7:00 am on WTTW Prime

Follow the gripping story of the race against time to save San Francisco and the nation from an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1900, which set off fear and anti-Asian sentiment.