"East Side Sushi": A crowd-pleaser about a Latina sushi chef toiling tirelessly to beat the odds doesn't gloss over the stereotyping, expectations and glass ceiling that minorities find themselves up against. Anthony Lucero, a visual-effects editor who's worked on "Iron Man" and many other tentpoles, proves he's just as skilled a director as those under whom he's labored.
"Top Spin": The table-tennis players in this documentary attempt to realize the elusive American dream. Filmmakers Mina T. Son and Sara Newens give us an idea just how hard the three subjects — two second-generation immigrants among them — have pushed themselves to strive for excellence and reach their full potential.
"An American in Hollywood": Sometimes hustle isn't enough to overcome the battle of the sexes and the East Coast-West Coast cultural clash, as a struggling artist learns in this drama. Filmmaker Sai Varadan's acute observations will surely garner him more attention.
"Supremacy": Based on actual events in Sonoma County two decades ago, this drama proves immensely relevant by forcing viewers to reckon with the horrors of racism and hate crimes. Director Deon Taylor, a former basketball player, captivates viewers with the precision and timing of a pro.
"Drunktown's Finest": Three Native Americans grapple with their heritage and identity in a heartbreaking look at minorities' struggle to preserve a sense of dignity, pride and self-worth within the melting pot. No one has articulated this as perceptively as Navajo filmmaker Sydney Freeland.
More, please: Commercial Chinese filmmakers seemingly found their voice and hit their stride last year, achieving success comparable to that of Hong Kong cinema's heyday. With smart and regaling blockbusters such as "Lost in Hong Kong" and "Saving Mr. Wu," China's rabidly evolving $6.3-billion film industry will hopefully yield even more artistic and commercial triumphs in the coming years.
No más: Lack of diversity has permeated every facet of the American film industry. Until Hollywood meaningfully addresses this, it'll never eradicate practices as absurd, regressive and repugnant as a century of yellowface — with Emma Stone in "Aloha" and Mackenzie Davis in "The Martian" following in the 1915 footsteps of Mary Pickford in "Madame Butterfly."