HomeBad Ass AsiansUpdated: Three Asian Americans Compete for Documentary Oscars

Updated: Three Asian Americans Compete for Documentary Oscars

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Contributor

Bing Liu
Bing Liu is nominated for an Oscar for Minding the Gap. Photo via Twitter

Three Asian American directors received Academy Award nominations Tuesday morning: Bing Liu for Minding the Gap, Jimmy Chin and his wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Chinese American & Hungarian) who both co-directed Free Solo.

Both movies are about young men who devote themselves to a physical activity. In Free Solo, Chai and Vasarhelyi follow rock climber Alex Honnold as he plans and attempts to free solo climb El Capitan in June 2017. Free solo climbing or soloing is a climber scaling a mountain alone and without the aid of ropes, harnesses or other safety equipment.


Minding the Gap is about three long-time friends who meet at a specific skate park in Rockford, Illinois. The three bond through their skateboarding adventures as teens and grow up and slowly take on adult responsibilities and face unpleasant realities. National Geographic’ s Free Solo won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Most Compelling Living Subject (Alex Honnold), Best Cinematography (Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer), Most Innovative Documentary and Best Sports Documentary) and the Cinema Eye Audience Choice Prize for Chin and  Vasarhelyi. It is also nominated for a BAFTA.

Minding the Gap with Keire Johnson
Minding the Gap with Keire Johnson at the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Photo by Mindy Day

Minding the Gap is currently streaming on Hulu and will air on PBS (18 February 2019) as part of the POV series.  Minding the Gap won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best First Time Director and a Film Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award. It also won a Best Editing Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

If either Chin or Liu win, they will be the first Asian American male director to receive an Oscar for their documentary. The first Asian American to win in this category was Frieda Lee Mock in 1994 for Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.


(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated there were only two Asian Americans up for this category. There are three)

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features



A Twitter list by @AsAmNews