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Celebrating Asian Heritage Month — Our API ERG Share Their Favourite Recommendations 

May 10, 2023
12 minutes read
Matt West Web Banner

Asian Heritage Month takes place throughout the month of May in Canada and the US, and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about Asian communities, to celebrate Asian achievements in North America, and to share the importance of Asian and Pacific Islander representation with our friends and colleagues. 

Our API ERG chapter has more than tripled since we formed less than a year ago, and we are fortunate to have such diverse representation at our studio and within our ERG. At Ubisoft Toronto, we believe that diversity is a strength, and that embracing our individuality helps us build stronger, creative teams and develop better games for all players. The API ERG is a safe space for us to connect with colleagues, learn from each other, and share stories about our respective cultures with each other and with our studio. Every person within our chapter is their own unique individual with their own personal story! 

In honour of Asian Heritage Month, many of our members were eager to recommend some of their favourite API-related media. We hope you check them out, learn more about us, our cultures, and maybe even discover a new favourite or three. 

— Emily Claire Afan and Stephen Ma, Ubisoft Toronto API ERG co-leads 

Meet our members 

Get to know some API ERG and studio members and learn about their career journey, top tips for getting into or excelling in the games industry, and perhaps even a few deets on what they’re currently working on in our ‘People of Ubisoft Toronto’ series. 😉 

Jessica Ig 1
Jill Ig 1
Ig 1 Naveen Prasad
Rag Premji Ig 1

To celebrate the contributions as well as the rich culture and history of our API community, here are some recommendations from the group: 

Books to read 

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri  

I’ve always loved reading but, growing up, it was difficult to find Indian authors I could relate to. In college, I took an Asian Literature class and discovered several Indian authors, one of which was Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer. Her work resonated deeply with me and I marveled at how effectively she captured simple emotions and the everyday mundane in a magical manner with her words — a feat I consider a more impressive accomplishment than a Pulitzer! 

Whereabouts is an intimate account of a woman’s life alone in a city, written with such tenderness that you can picture her sitting on her balcony, jotting down memorable moments, observations, and all the in-betweens. 

— Ellie Vengala, Communications Specialist 
 

Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui 

Whenever I’ve passed through a smaller town in Ontario or across Canada, I can always count on seeing at least a few seemingly random Chinese-Canadian restaurants and wondered, how did that get there? What is that family’s story? Turns out that Globe and Mail journalist Ann Hui had the exact same question, and the answer is in this book. She road-tripped across Canada, from Victoria to Fogo Island, to visit these small-town Chinese restaurants and interview the families behind them, and in the process, learnt how much of those stories are reflected in her own family’s history. Chop Suey Nation also includes a short history on the origins of ginger beef, which is a Canadian-created dish – who knew? Not me, until I read this book! 

— Emily Claire Afan, Strategic Partnerships & Programs Lead 

The Paper Menagerie And Other Stories Ken Liu

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu 

I first learnt of multi-award-winning author Ken Liu through watching the Netflix series Love Death + Robots. His steampunk story Good Hunting was adapted for an episode with the same name. That haunting episode stayed in my mind for a long time and I later discovered that story was part of his larger acclaimed collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. I had to google what “menagerie” meant and learnt it was essentially a zoo. Naturally, I was curious what a zoo filled with paper animals was all about and so bought the book the following day. 

The book was a collection of brilliantly-written short fiction stories that dragged me right into its characters’ worlds.  

Paper Menagerie is the seventh story of the book and is about a bi-racial boy named Jack. His father is an American and his mother is an immigrant from Mainland China. Jack enjoys playing with origami animals that his mum makes, and she has the magical ability to bring these origami animals to life by breathing into them. As Jack grows older, he tries to fit into American culture and discards the origami animals and rejects his mother, refusing to talk her. Despite not being able to speak English fluently, she tries her best and changes her habits in attempts to please him. After tragedy strikes his family, he discovers that his mum had been writing letters in the origami animals to him. You’ll have to read the book to learn what she conveys. 

I vividly remember crying on TTC at 11 p.m. when I was reading it, feeling homesick and missing my parents. I’d love to recommend this book during Asian Heritage Month as it is essentially the story of love. Love conquers all. 

— Ryan Gao, Texture Artist 

Films and TV series to watch 

Kantara directed by Rishab Shetty 

Kantara is centered on a feud between a young athlete and a forest officer in a South Indian village steeped in spirituality and folklore. 

This film stood out to me because it dealt with some very interesting topics and felt refreshing. It leaned towards a romantic drama in the middle, which is not my thing, but overall I loved it because it showcased folklore and myths, caste politics, and connected the past with the present.

The theme song – “Varaha Roopam is an outstanding piece of music that I highly recommend others check out. Music has always had a way of speaking to me; I felt a connection with this performance because of its intensity and the art. Kudos also to Rishab Shetty, who wrote, directed, and acted in the film. 

The action, music and cinematography is a blend I have rarely experienced before and I’m inspired to seek out more stories regardless of language or borders. 

— Aalaap Majgavkar, Capture Artist 

BEEF directed by Lee Sung Jin for Netflix 

I will admit that when I first saw the trailer for BEEF I thought “Ugh, why is Ali Wong and Glen from Walking Dead making a romantic comedy? What kind of Asian Hallmark tripe is this?” But after binging the entire Netflix series, I will admit that my judge-y rage was wrong. 

Without giving too much away, BEEF is a highly entertaining dramedy that examines the age-old trope of what happens when boy meets girl, girl cuts off boy in a parking lot, boy and girl harass each other with unflattering and humiliating retaliation – BEEF’s plot line is likely what would happen if Romeo and Juliet had a baby out of wedlock with Jackass. 

What I love most about BEEF is the portrayal of complex, authentic and deeply-flawed characters. The Asians here are not the perky sidekick best friend, the wise cracking office Karen or the overachieving college jock. These people have major issues that would make any Asian parent cringe and never brag about them to their friends at dim sum. All of this over a 90’s alt. soundtrack that would make you want to run out and buy EdgeFest tickets. BEEF – fork me, I’m done. 

— Fern Hung, Production Manager, Audio

Riceboy Sleeps directed by Anthony Shim 

Riceboy Sleeps is a Korean Canadian feature film that premiered at TIFF in 2022 and recently won “Best Original Screenplay,” at the Canadian Screen Awards in April 2023.  This film is a beautiful slow burn that captured the hearts of many Asian-Canadians with its relatable and poignant story. If you enjoyed the film, Minari (directed by Lee Isaac Chung, 2020), then you will love Riceboy Sleeps. The film can be described as a modern folktale and is centered on the main character, So-Young — a young mother who flees to Canada for a better life after her husband dies.  

What I found most impactful about this story was the relationship between parent and child. There is a scene in the film in which So-Young is retelling an old Korean folktale about a questionable practice in which elderly parents were carried up into the mountains and left to die when their children could no longer care for them. In this folktale the mother realizes what her son is doing and lays a trail of pine needles to help her son get back home safely, even knowing her fate and what her son was doing to her. It goes to show how strong a parent’s love is for their child and I felt like this film portrayed such an interesting parallel to such a sad and foreboding folktale. This folktale inspired me to research more about stories like these and sent me on a deep dive into my own writing and what kind of stories I want to tell as a writer.

The Grizzlie Truth directed by Kay Jayme 

This film premiered at VIFF and Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival in 2022 and won multiple audience choice awards. Kay Jayme is a Filipino-Canadian filmmaker based in Vancouver and a die-hard Vancouver Grizzlies fan who was heart-broken when the team was relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, thus ending a home basketball team for Vancouver after only 5 short years.  

The film features some amazing interviews with NBA players, coaches, and reporters. I had first caught wind of this documentary in late 2019 when I was attending TIFF and was able to watch Kay Jayme pitch this idea at Telefilm and see her win 1st place. To be in the audience where this young filmmaker started and then to once again be in the audience and see the completed film screen at the Reel Asian Film Festival was a real treat and honestly, so inspiring. I feel like sometimes we don’t necessarily always see the success stories that come from pitching ideas or winning contests, but with this film it felt very inspiring to see a fellow Asian Canadian filmmaker and her idea come to life so successfully.  

Both basketball fans and non-sports fans alike can find something amazing in this film as it was a refreshing and detailed documentary that was both funny and informative. The documentary is now streaming on Crave. 

— Jean Kim, Scriptwriter 

Threads of Love directed by Amy Chyan 

Threads of Love by Asian-Canadian director Amy Chyan is a short film/ documentary about a small scrunchie business called “XXL Scrunchie” based out of Bellville, ON. The documentary features a Vietnamese Canadian family that consists of Tina, the owner of the company, and her parents.  

I originally discovered Tina and her company through TikTok. She uploaded a video showing appreciation to her parents for how much they do to help with her business. I have followed their journey ever since. 

Commonly with Asian parents (including mine), how they express love is more in acts of service rather than vocalizing love. In this documentary they talk a lot about this and about their family dynamic. Moreover, it heavily-features the experience of being an immigrant child in Canada. All of this I found so relatable to my own life, and it was beautiful and comforting to see it in the media. Tina’s parents also speak in Vietnamese at times in the documentary. As my parents speak Cantonese and Vietnamese it was really comforting to hear. 

The documentary was featured in many film festivals across North America and was nominated and won a couple awards. It’s hard to find on the internet now (I watched it while it was being featured for the Vancouver Asian Film Festival), but if you ever come across it – it’s a must watch. At least check out the XXL Scrunchie TikTok! Even with such short videos you can really feel the love and dynamic this family has. (Maybe even buy a scrunchie!) 

— Jessica Le, Technical Artist 

Queen directed by Vikas Bahl 

The film’s lead, Rani (played by Kangana Ranaut) is devastated after her fiancé leaves her just before their wedding. Undeterred, she decides to go on their honeymoon alone where she gets pulled out of her comfort zone and rediscovers herself. 

I just loved Kangana’s performance and how it portrayed a woman trying to get over her fiancé after such a life-altering event. Check it out on Netflix! 

— Piyush Tripathi, AI Programmer 

RRR directed by S. S. Rajamouli 

RRR is one of those movies that has changed the game for Indian cinema. With well over 80 million views on the trailer alone RRR has become a global sensation. 
 
The director S. S. Rajamouli has created something very special with RRR. This film has it all — action, romance, betrayal and an Oscar-winning dance number. 
 
Being a lifelong fan of action cinema, RRR reminds me of 80’s action films with a much bigger scope and budget to tell a grand story, rich in visual splendor and martial arts choreography. I love telling people about RRR as some may not have seen Indian cinema before and seeing their reaction to the twists and turns of the film is very gratifying. 
 
I would highly recommend watching RRR with a group of friends and it’s available to watch on Netflix. 

— Rag Premji, Senior Character Artist 

The Goonies directed by Richard Donner 

When I was growing up, I was a very much into watching ANY movie with immersive stories, but rarely did I see Asian actors casts in roles except when I watched specifically Chinese movies. 

I remember watching The Goonies on TV, and thinking to myself “Wow, I see someone in this movie that looks like me!”  The story is about a band of kids who come together to save their homes from foreclosure when they stumble across a secret treasure map that leads them on an adventure while being chased by a family of criminals. Through all this, they fight together using their bonds of friendship and love. 37 years before his Oscar-winning role in Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, then child actor Ke Huy Quan portrayed the role of Richard “Data” Wang, a self-described James Bond-inspired Inspector Gadgeteer was awe-inspiring to watch. Watching this young actor play a role that wasn’t just a side cast member but an individual integral to not only the band of kids, but the story plot was amazing. This character resonated deeply with me because Richard didn’t have to try to fit with his friends, and his friends didn’t see him any differently and loved him for who he was, embracing his quirkiness and amazing talents, something I personally struggled with growing up. 

— Stephen Ma, Cinematic Production Manager 

Turning Red directed by Domee Shi 

Turning Red is an animated feature film directed by Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi (also known for her 2018 short film Bao) 

The film is centered around Meilin “Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian student in Toronto who turns into a huge red panda whenever she gets too excited. The difficulties of puberty, the value of family, and the search for one’s identity are all topics covered in the film. I know everyone has their own hardships and struggles that they have to deal with; what I like about this movie is that it keeps us educated on today’s problems that teenagers deal with. While we often focus on our own experiences that nobody else understands, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open to learning what goes on in the world now and stay up to date on today’s issues to help our young ones better.   

I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys animated films, coming-of-age tales, and warm family dramas. 

— Yash Kaushik, Release and Build Specialist 

Games to play  

Carto by Sunhead Games 

Carto is a cozy, puzzle-adventure game created by Taiwanese Indie Game studio Sunhead Games. The brainchild of developers Lee-Kuo Chen and Chia-Yu Chen, the game focuses on a young cartographer, aptly named Carto, who is separated from her granny in a storm. Help Carto find her way back to her family by using her cartographic abilities to shift, rotate and rearrange tiles on the game map, thereby unlocking new paths, puzzles and narrative moments. (Fun fact: This game was inspired by the popular tile-laying board game Carcassonne!) 

This is the game for you if you prefer puzzles that don’t provide explicit instructions and enjoy exploring a game’s world while you interact and solve your way thought it. Which is hardly a frustration and more a satisfaction given the game’s charming hand-drawn aesthetics, unique puzzle mechanics and quirky cast of characters (including adorable, fluffeh sheep you can interact with!) 

Venba by Visai Studio 

Venba is a colourful, narrative cooking game by Toronto-based developer Visai Studio. You play as an Indian mom who immigrates to Canada, but her recipe book gets damaged along the way. Players cook mouth-watering dishes to restore the lost recipes, hold branching conversations and explore the story about family, love, loss and more. 

The animation is adorable, vibrant, and a feast for the eyes. And as an immigrant to Toronto myself, the narrative of connecting to your culture and the home you’ve left behind through food is one that deeply resonates with me. 

Growing up in multi-cultural Singapore, some of the dishes featured in Venba are ones that I have fond memories of, for example, eating my aunt’s biriyani or snacking on chakli and achappam in Little India. There are also dishes that I’m not familiar with and am eager to learn about and perhaps even recreate. 

Venba is currently in production with no confirmed release date yet. While I can’t technically recommend it (yet), I’m very much looking forward to playing it hopefully someday soon. If you’re interested in it or would like updates, you can wishlist it on Steam. 

— Erica Rae Chong, Content Marketing Manager 

Music to listen to 

Spectrum by Hiromi 

Hiromi is a Japanese jazz pianist and composer. I discovered her in late 2022 when her song Whiteout from her album Spectrum popped up on my Spotify Discover Weekly and I instantly fell in love. I was listening to the album a lot and then realized that she was going to be performing in Toronto in November 2022 – her Spectrum album release concert that had been delayed for two years because of the pandemic. What a great show! She’s an amazing performer, an incredibly talented pianist, and the emotion she poured into her playing was so moving that her cover of Blackbird almost brought me to tears. 

I’d highly recommend checking out Spectrum or any of her other music. If solo piano is not your thing, she also has some albums with jazz combo and other instruments.  

— Marla Kishimoto, Voice Designer 

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