SAN FRANCISCO – The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) announces that CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, will take place March 12-22 in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.
Rebranded in 2013 to reflect the festival’s expanded ventures into the music and culinary worlds, CAAMFest is an 11-day celebration of film, music, food and digital media from the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists.
CAAMFest showcases the work of new Asian and Asian American artists and pays tribute to the pioneers who have paved the way for Asian Americans in media and entertainment. From film visionary Arthur Dong, to hip-hop enthusiast Awkwafina to a myriad of talented artists, CAAMFest 2015 demonstrates the strength of Asian American voices in media today.
Opening and Closing Night
Fresh off its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, CAAMFest 2015 opens with “Seoul Searching” directed by award winning Korean American director Benson Lee. Inspired by “The Breakfast Club,” one of the most quintessential films of its time and Lee’s own personal experiences, “Seoul Searching” is a fun coming-of-age feature, chronicling the shenanigans and personal journeys of a group of international Korean teens sent to a government-sponsored summer camp for a crash course in Korean culture. Set in the 1980s, this John Hughes-inspired dramedy delivers a pitch-perfect tale of teenage angst, modernized with a stellar Asian and Asian American cast. Lee and several cast members, including Justin Chon, will be in attendance for opening night.
The excitement continues with the Opening Night Gala at the Asian Art Museum. Guests will have an exclusive look at the museum’s newest exhibit, “Seduction: Japan’s Floating World,” and enjoy sweet and savory tastings from some of San Francisco’s local food purveyors, including Sol Food and Socola Chocolatier.
CAAMFest 2015 concludes just a BART ride away in Oakland with the premiere of CAAM co-produced PBS series “Lucky Chow,” which follows Luckyrice culinary festival founder Danielle Chang as she travels across America exploring the Asian food landscape. The series features many of the country’s most renowned chefs and culinary stars such as “Top Chef” winner Kristen Kish, YouTube sensation Maangchi and Bay Area favorite Ramen Shop. As CAAMFest’s closing night presentation, “Lucky Chow’s” six episodes will be showcased over two days and feature an Asian-inspired menu from The New Parkway kitchen.
This year’s Centerpiece Presentation brings Shonali Bose’s “Margarita, with a Straw” to the CAAMFest audience. Her deeply personal film dazzles with moments of careful reflection and emotional struggle as she tells the compelling and inspiring story of Laila, a young woman with cerebral palsy who dreams of becoming a writer. A NYU transplant from India’s Delhi University, Laila’s journey begins when she falls for a fiery female activist who tests her creative and personal boundaries.
Preceding the screening, CAAM will host a reception where guests will have the chance to rub elbows with director Bose and enjoy handcrafted Remy cocktails at the historic Castro Theatre.
CAAM is pleased to recognize Oscar-nominated and three-time Sundance award-winning filmmaker Arthur Dong (“Forbidden City, USA,” “Coming Out Under Fire,” “Hollywood Chinese”) as this year’s Spotlight Feature. A San Francisco native who has earned a multitude of prestigious awards for not only his work in film, but also for his public service, Dong is known for his prowess in utilizing the art of film as a means to investigate social issues and examine undisclosed parts of Asian American and LGBT history and identity. In celebration of Dong’s legacy in film, CAAMFest is honored to present two world premieres, including “The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor,” and a special on-stage conversation with noted film critic and author B. Ruby Rich.
Pacific Islanders in Communications presents Pacific Showcase. In “Kumu Hina,” a transgender hula teacher strives to keep Native Hawaiian culture prosperous amidst the growing influence of westernization. On a subject rarely spoken of in Hawaii, this documentary pushes the struggles of being “in the middle” to the surface.
In “Winning Girl,” teenage wrestling and judo phenom Teshya Alo is a heavyweight on the mat at a paltry 125 pounds. The tenacious high-schooler has her eyes set on being the first to take home Olympic gold medals for judo and wrestling in the same year.
A selection of shorts from CAAM’s Muslim Youth Voices Project’s inaugural year offers refreshing insight into the lives and stories of a diverse American community. In a span of seven days, acclaimed filmmaker Musa Syeed worked with young students to craft and share tales of personal reflections, heroic intervention, struggles of faith and strength in activism.
The Youth Voices on China online video contest is the 1990 Institute’s signature education initiative to foster better global awareness among young Americans. Come meet the winners from the middle, high school and college divisions and enjoy an exclusive premiere of all the finalists’ videos.
Directed by Oscar winner Ruby Yang, “A Moment in Time” explores the critical role of Chinatown movie theaters in San Francisco. With intimate, multi-generational interviews and rare film clips, the film keeps the legacy alive with records of theater history, connecting Chinese bachelors to the cinema and opera of the 1920s and ’30s.
From the renowned Shaw Brothers Studio and acclaimed director Chang Cheh, “One-Armed Swordsman” was the first film in Hong Kong history to gross HK$1 million. It is a classic kung fu story of honor and sacrifice featuring Jimmy Wang, whose rise to stardom was in large part due to this film’s success.
Memories to Light
For the third CAAMFest iteration of its innovative home movie initiative, CAAM is thrilled to present a live home movie performance by pioneering artist, spoken-word performer and filmmaker Kip Fulbeck. Fulbeck’s work, in films like “Banana Split” and books like “Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids,” delves deeply and fearlessly into the implications of mixed-race identity. Drawing upon his family’s home movies, Fulbeck has fashioned a unique live performance that promises to be unforgettable. Selling out two years in a row, this festival favorite is sure to be a hit again this year.
Directions in Sound
For over 10 years, “Directions in Sound” has been the festival’s premier Asian and Asian American music showcase featuring emerging and cutting-edge artists. Bringing together leading Asian American musicians, “Directions in Sound” exposes Bay Area audiences to innovative artists from the underground music scene, many of whom have built strong online followings and created new definitions of success. This year’s program features hip-hop and future beats from Cambodia, Vietnam, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
Inspired by the legendary beats of hip-hop’s iconic MCs, this year’s “Directions in Sound” is bringing to the stage two of hip-hop’s rising Asian and Asian American female artists. Hailing from Queens, Awkwafina brings her satirical and witty lyrics to CAAMFest with her viral hits “My Vag” and “Yellow Ranger.” Emerging from LaGuardia High School, the same school that molded Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks, Awkwafina’s hipster, comedic New York swag will be on full display when she hits the Mercer stage.
Joining Awkwafina is Suboi, better known as Vietnam’s “Queen of Hip-Hop,” who will be giving her first-ever U.S performance. Influenced by the likes of Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Aaliyah among others, CAAMFest 2015 gets a taste of Vietnam hip-hop royalty with Suboi’s signature mix of international style and urban hip-hop flavor.
Rounding out the night will be Los Angeles-based Kronika, representing the highly acclaimed Soulection crew, two-time world champion DJ Vinroc, along with ConnectFlow radio host and party rocker DJ Bluz. Hosted by Asian American hip-hop pioneer CHOPS of the Mountain Brothers.
Directions in Sound Films
This year, CAAMFest expands its music programming to include music-centric films paired with a special live performance. Influenced by this year’s features, CAAM is excited to bring Cambodian American musician Bochan, Kollaboration SF veteran Tim Atlas and instrumentalist Masaru Koga to the CAAMFest audiences.
“Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll” — Director John Pirozzi’s sparkling film elegantly reveals the beauty of Cambodian culture pre-1975, giving the mic to artists like Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Serey Sothea, Pen Ran and Yol Aularong — who all perished in the Khmer Rouge genocide. Pirozzi brings their musical talents back to life on the big screen and CAAM revitalizes the musical pulse of Cambodia with an exclusive performance by Cambodian American musician Bochan at the PFA Theater.
“Kollaboration SF: Movement in Motion” — Tapping into San Francisco’s local talent, this energizing documentary explores the making of Kollaboration SF’s annual talent showcase. From exclusive interviews to behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, director Howard Lui delves into what it takes to bring Kollaboration’s motto of “Empowerment through Entertainment” to life. Following the film, Kollaboration SF veteran Tim Atlas will bless the stage with a musical performance.
“Fred Ho’s Last Year” — Making its San Francisco debut just shy of the one-year anniversary of Fred Ho’s passing, this film pays tribute to the musician’s determination to share his insights with the world while confronting his battle with cancer. Exclusively following the New Parkway screening, multi-wind instrumentalist Masaru Koga will honor Ho’s legacy with a special live performance.
“Off the Menu” — CAAMFest favorite Grace Lee explores the contributions Asian Americans have made to the nation’s culinary landscape, with the growing mainstream popularity of foods like kimchi and sushi. As she travels across the country, Lee discovers how Asian Americans have transformed ethnic foods into new revolutionary cuisines, while reflecting on her own identity.
“Supper Club” — Follow “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung as he visits the Bay Area’s most exciting restaurants and speaks to renowned chefs, including Michael Mina and Corey Lee, about ingredients, craft and personal vision in the restaurant industry. Get ready to eat, drink and be inspired by all things gourmet and culinary.
Narrative and Documentary Competition
Presenting an array of compelling stories and charming comedic anecdotes, this year’s Narrative Competition includes “Man Up!” (dir. Justin Chon), a buddy comedy following two deadbeat friends forced to grow up quickly; “Nuoc 2030” (dir. Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo), a sci-fi crime mystery set in Vietnam, where global warming has led sea levels to rise; and “The Sisterhood of Night” (dir. Caryn Waecther), a bold young adult thriller about three high school girls whose secretive friendship throws their small-town community into a modern-day witch hunt.
Other competition films include “Love Arcadia” (dir. Lawrence Gan), a coming-of-age story of a young man’s journey dealing with the lessons of holding on, letting go and loving what you have; “Miss India America” (dir. Ravi Kapoor), the story of a young girl who is desperate to win at all costs; “She Lights Up Well” (dir. Joyce Wu), a dramedy that follows a struggling New York actress’ return home, where she stumbles upon a sense of purpose; and “Cicada” (dir. Dean Yamada), a moving portrait of an introverted schoolteacher whose discovery of his infertility leads him to a greater appreciation of his surrounding relationships.
The Documentary Competition features seven unique Asian and Asian American stories, including several CAAM-funded and produced projects. This year’s documentaries include “9-Man” (dir. Ursula Liang), the story about a gritty Chinese-only street-ball game born in the alleys and parking lots of local 1930s Chinatowns; “All Eyes and Ears” (dir. Vanessa Hope), a complex and timely exploration into the links between the U.S. and China through the eyes of U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman and his adopted Chinese daughter Gracie Mei; and “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm” (dir. Jim Choi), which documents a transitional year in the life of famed peach farmer David “Mas” Masumoto and his relationship with his daughter Nikiko.
Also included are “The Last Season” (dir. Sara Dosa), which follows a Cambodian freedom fighter and a refugee as they form a new family in their hunt for rare matsutake mushrooms; “Tash’s Turbine” (dir. Amitabh R. Joshi), in which two young friends try to fulfill their dream of bringing sustainable wind energy to a small village in Upper Mustang, Nepal; “Top Spin” (dir. Sara Newens and Mina T. Son), the story of three young kids fighting their way through the challenges of the ping-pong world to fulfill their Olympic dreams; and “Tough Love” (dir. Stephanie Wang-Breal) an intimate look at two parents navigating the American child welfare system to reunite their families.
A collection of some of the best international Asian films, CinemAsia has always been an integral part of the festival’s vision and this year’s crop of films is no exception, introducing new international voices from Argentina, Iran, India, Singapore and Japan, among many others.
Highlights include: “Tales” (dir. Rakhshan Banietemad), a strategically pieced puzzle of working-class Iranians all trying to get their voices heard; “La Salada,” (dir. Juan Martin Hsu), a story about an unlikely cast of Korean, Taiwanese and Bolivian immigrants who converge in the bustling discount market of Argentina’s La Salada; and “0.5MM” (dir. Ando Momoko), which follows a Japanese caregiver for the elderly whose moral standards are tested when she begins relationships with old men.
The program also includes, “Partners in Crime” (dir. Chang Jung-chi), a thrilling Taiwanese tale about the discovery of a young girl’s body and the disparate lives of three teenagers searching for clues of her alleged suicide; “Hollow” (dir. Ham Tran), a Vietnamese horror flick featuring a family terrorized by their dead daughter who has come back to life, possessed by a vengeful spirit; and “As You Were” (dir. Liao Jiekai), a Singaporean drama about lovers experiencing the inescapability of erosion and the velocity of change.
Rounding out the CinemAsia section is “River of Exploding Durians” (dir. Edmund Yeo), a tale about young love and the repercussions of political activism when a small Malaysian town is threatened by a radioactive power plant; “Jalanan” (dir. Daniel Ziv), a rare look at the vibrant subculture of Jakarta’s street buskers; and “Storm Children: Book 1” (dir. Lav Diaz), an unwavering silent documentary about the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.
CAAMFest at BAM/PFA
CAAMFest is excited to continue its partnership with the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). Beginning Friday, March 13, and continuing through Wednesday, March 18, the PFA Theater will show eight stellar new films from Iran, Japan, Argentina, Vietnam, the U.S., and Cambodia.
CAAMFest in Oakland
Kicking off this year’s Oakland program with “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm” at the Oakland Museum of California, CAAM is delighted to continue bringing films to Oakland for the second straight year. The festival concludes with a full weekend of programming at the New Parkway Theater.
San Francisco venues: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St.; New People Cinema, 1746 Post St.; Great Star Theater, 636 Jackson St.; Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St.; 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna St.; The Office, 194 Church St.; Mercer, 255 Rhode Island St.; Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St.; California College of the Arts, Timken Hall, 1111 8th St.
Oakland venues: The New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St.; Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St.
Berkeley venue: Pacific Film Archive Theater, 2575 Bancroft Way.
Excluding special events, panels, galas and special screenings, advanced general admission tickets are $14. Tickets for students, seniors (65+) and disabled adults are $13 (limit 1 per program with ID only). Tickets for CAAM members are $12 (limit two per program per ID). Tickets can be purchased in person at the CAAMFest box office at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. For more information, go to http://caamfest.com/2015/.
CAAM is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. For more information, visit www.caamedia.org.
Japanese/Japanese American Films
“Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm,” directed by Jim Choi (attending festival), on Friday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California. “How many harvests do you have in you?” is the perennial echo heard across the Masumoto family peach farm. This film chronicles a transitional year for David “Mas” Masumoto and his daughter, Nikiko, as they lovingly act out the rituals of transitioning the farm into Nikiko’s hands. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/changing-season-on-the-masumoto-family-farm/
“0.5MM” on Sunday, March 15, at 5:10 p.m. at the Kabuki. In her second feature, director Ando Momoko tells the story of Sawa (Ando Sakura), a young woman who cares for the elderly. Struggling to make ends meet after making a conscious decision that stretches her morals to fulfill an old man’s wish, she is left on the street, broke and alone. A nomad of sorts, Sawa shrewdly strikes enigmatic relationships with other elderly men, challenging the disconnect between their generations and persistently edging her way into their lives. At first just a means to an end, Sawa quickly develops father-daughter like relationships with these men, eventually leading her to come full circle. Adapted her first novel to the screen, Ando guides audiences through Sawa’s anecdotes while subtly addressing the issues of class, patriarchy and sexism Japan has faced for years. Her stories reflect the resiliency and courage of the female mind, through a life of servitude. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/0-5mm/
“Cicada,” directed by Dean Yamada (attending festival), on Friday, March 13, at 5:10 p.m. at New People Cinema; Saturday, March 14, at 8:15 p.m. at PFA; Wednesday, March 18, a 6:30 p.m. at the Kabuki. Jumpei is surrounded by kids. He’s a schoolteacher as well as the uncle of a precious nine-year-old. Then, there are the adults in his life who haven’t quite grown up: his rock-‘n’-rolling girlfriend and his gambling-addicted brother-in-law. So, when Jumpei finds out he’s infertile, he thinks he’ll be unmarried and downcast forever. But, he’s given an opportunity to deepen his relationships with the big and little kids that already surround him every day. Also a teacher, Yamada is similarly inspired by youthful energies. A professor at Biola University, he took his students to Japan, where they produced this soft-stepping comedy that combines colorful characterizations with the gentle moods of social discovery found in much Japanese cinema. It’s a welcome return for Yamada, a mainstay of the Asian American film festival circuit for his award-winning shorts “Jitensha” and “Persimmon,” as he steps into the feature-film spotlight with longtime collaborator Yu Shibuya and university students ready to mature into filmmakers themselves. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/cicada/
CAAM is proud to partner with one of Japan’s premier film showcases, Short Shorts Film Festival, on Saturday, March 14, at 5:10 p.m. and Thursday, March 19, at 5:10 p.m. at the Kabuki. Started in 1999, SSFF’s mission is to shine a light on the art of short filmmaking. Featured shorts are:
“In the Tree House,” directed by Tsuyoshi Nakakuki, is about a disparate and estranged family whose independent lives fail to cross paths. That is until one day they make a sudden, out-of-the-ordinary trip. This may sound like a common story, but for this family it’s one of great importance, as they are given the chance to reaffirm family bonds. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/in-the-tree-house/
“An Innocent Beat,” directed by Kazuhisa Kotera. Children cannot go outside besides to attend school – that’s the rule of this modern society, which has lost all sense of time. With no conception of what nightfall, seasons or time are, one day Natsuko decides to run away in order to discover a world full of changes. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/innocent-beat/
“A Soccer Story,” directed by Liliana Suizbach. Two football teams from Tokyo head to a football pitch by the sea in Kozu Island. During the match, a young player, Kazu, has to play against his hometown team. How will Kazu perform in front of his local community in such a situation? http://caamfest.com/2015/films/soccer-story/
“Stroboscope,” directed by A.T. During a location tour sponsored by Ibaraki Prefecture, Nagayama is mistaken for the acclaimed director Shinohara and taken onto a tour bus to mentor the young creators on board. Meanwhile, the real Shinohara chases after them. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/stroboscope/
“Two Juliets of Verona,” directed by Ken Ochiai. Verona Girls’ High School has been holding its legendary theater festival for 120 years. Julie and Yuri are competing with each other to appear as the star of the play. When they find out the school will become co-educational and a male transfer student appears, the battle intensifies. http://caamfest.com/2015/films/two-juliets-of-verona/