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Alan Yang: The 5 Greatest Movies About Family
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Alan Yang
Filmmaker

You may know Alan Yang as a writer and producer on Parks and Recreation or the co-creator of dramedy series like Forever and Master of None (the latter of which won him and Aziz Ansari an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series). Now, Tigertail marks his feature directorial debut.

The multigenerational drama is inspired by Alan's own family and heritage, telling the story of Pin-Jui over three generations: First, as a boy living in the rice fields of Taiwan, then as a young man seeking opportunity in America, and finally, as a father (played by Tzi Ma) attempting to connect with his estranged daughter (Christine Ko).

MORE: A Director Finds His Roots—Starting with a Trip to Taiwan

Of his approach to this list, the filmmaker says, "I like a balance between classic films, Asian films, more modern ones, and ones I've watched more recently. I have made so many people watch Yi Yi, it's crazy."

Below, Yang shares with A.frame his favorite movies about family.

1
Yi Yi: A One and a Two...
2000
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Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel

Directed and written by: Edward Yang

It was a huge inspiration and really impacted me when I watched it. What really struck me about it is the level of restraint. I think there's often a tendency in the western canon where, when you make a quote-unquote dramatic movie, it's incredibly dramatic, you know? There are fights, there are people crying, there's screaming. That's the western mode of storytelling.

And if you watch Yi Yi, it's incredibly powerful, it's incredibly moving, it changes dynamics. But it's told within a very restrained mode of expression. You're seeing moments in between moments, if that makes sense. At one point, there's a character who says, "We all need time to think." And the movie takes its time, and the movie is very patient in the way it lays out its characters and conflicts.

2
A City of Sadness
1989
A City of Sadness

Directed by: Hou Hsiao-hsien | Written by: T'ien-wen Chu and Nien-Jen Wu

What's inspirational about this movie is that it's sprawling. It's a family movie, but it includes so many aspects of history and culture in it. It's showing not only the story of this family, but the story of Taiwan and the story of Taiwanese. The way it weaves those two narratives together is incredibly skillful. It's often considered the greatest Taiwanese film of all time. It's an epic film.

3
Late Spring
1949
Late Spring

Directed by: Yasujirô Ozu | Written by: Kôgo Noda and Yasujirô Ozu

Yasujirō Ozu is widely considered, if not the greatest filmmaker of all time, one of the greatest. And certainly, his mode of filmmaking is almost always inspired by family. Tokyo Story is one of the movies that people always mention, but Late Spring is an interesting one because it's specifically a father and daughter story. And, in many ways, Tigertail is also a father-daughter story. One of the things that's very interesting about Ozu is he often doesn't show you the scene that seems like the linchpin of the whole story. He shows you the before and after, and he allows the audience to put it together. That's an incredible lesson in putting together a movie, and figuring out what to show and what not to show.

4
The Squid and the Whale
2005
The Squid and the Whale
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Where to watch

Directed and written by: Noah Baumbach

I saw this when it came out, and it was inspiring to me because it was so personal. It's an example of the truth in that what's most personal is most universal. If you look at Noah Baumbach's movies, it truly feels like the ones that he really dug the deepest on are the ones that became his masterpieces, and The Squid and the Whale is one of them. He digs into his own pain, and he's not afraid to expose his vulnerabilities and tell the story of how he became who he is. There are some amazing moments in this movie, and amazing performances as well. All of the relationships in just feel really well-deserved and sort of accurate to Noah's personal life.

5
The Place Beyond the Pines
2012
The Place Beyond the Pines

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance | Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder

It's kind of a left-field pitch, but I think it's a little bit overlooked. Blue Valentine is another Derek Cianfrance movie that's amazing, but Place Beyond the Pines is an unusual family movie. What was really fascinating to me about it was the passage of time and the way. I don't want to spoil the movie, but at a certain point, it just jumps generations. You think the movie's over and then another movie begins, essentially.

I've always been fascinated by the passage of time and how it affects us. It's the one thing that we all have in common. No matter who you are, what race you are, what gender you are, what class you are, we all deal with past memories, past regrets, past loves. And it also shows how previous generations affect the current generation, and that was also something that we were grappling with in Tigertail, so this movie is really, really a sleeper, man.

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