SAN FRANCISCO – The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) announces that CAAMFest will take place March 10-20 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), CAAMFest is an 11-day celebration of film, music, food and digital media from the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists.
This year the festival welcomes the biggest change since its rebrand with fresh scenery in the Mission district. Joining Castro Theatre, New People Cinema and New Parkway Theater (Oakland), CAAM adds the venerable 106-year-old Roxie Theater and the newly minted Alamo Drafthouse to its expansive slate of venues and neighborhoods.
“Cultural preservation and innovation are core to CAAM’s mission. With both the Roxie and Alamo, we continue to elevate and explore this intersection of old and new,” says Stephen Gong, CAAM’s executive director. “We’re excited to expand to the culturally rich Mission district and to continue our dynamic programs in film, music and food.”
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 the rich cultural legacy of the opening film, “Tyrus,” to the multi-platform portfolio of local artist H.P. Mendoza, CAAMFest 2016 demonstrates the growing breadth of Asian American voices today.
Opening and Closing Nights
CAAMFest 2016 opens with an unforgettable cinematic experience, the Bay Area premiere of “Tyrus.” Directed by Pamela Tom, it is an inspirational documentary about the art, life, and enduring impact of 105-year-old pioneering Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong, best known for the conceptual artwork that gave Walt Disney’s “Bambi” its distinctive and unforgettable look. “Tyrus” will be shown at the majestic Castro Theatre, and is part of a special spotlight series, in partnership with Pixar Animation Studios and the Walt Disney Family Museum, “Asian Americans in Animation.”
Immediately after the screening, let inspiration lead you to the incomparable Asian Art Museum for the Opening Night Gala. View the dazzling exhibit “Hidden Gold” as you indulge in sweet and savory creations, sip a signature cocktail and dance to music from Traktivist, experiencing the best of the Bay Area.
CAAMFest 2016 concludes in Oakland with the Bay Area premiere of “Right Footed,” an inspiring documentary about expert martial artist, disability rights activist and the world’s only armless airplane pilot, Filipina American Jessica Cox. Director Nick Spark explores Cox’s incredible journey as she overcomes adversity, finds romance and awakens hope in others around the world.
Finish off the night and the festival by joining CAAM in raising a glass to the past 11 days of film, music and food at SomaR Bar. Just a few blocks from The New Parkway, SomaR is a hub for music, arts and culture in Oakland’s thriving arts district.
This year’s Centerpiece Narrative presentation comes from CAAMFest Spotlight filmmaker Mabel Cheung, whose “A Tale of Three Cities” transports us to Hong Kong during the turbulent times of war in the 1930s and 1940s, focusing on an epic story of romance and tragedy between the real-life parents of Jackie Chan. Starring Lau Ching-wan (“Mad Detective”) and Tang Wei (“Lust, Caution”).
The Centerpiece Documentary presentation brings a premiere from San Francisco’s own Michael Siv, “Daze of Justice.” Siv, once a documentary subject himself (“Refugee,” SFIAAFF ’03), follows Khmer Rouge survivors on a journey from the U.S. to tribunals in Cambodia. The unraveling of unspeakable wounds breaks a decades-long silence in this messy, and ultimately moving, process.
CAAMFest 2016 partners with Pixar Animation Studios and the Walt Disney Family Museum to present “Asian Americans in Animation,” a special presentation inspired by the subject of Opening Night film “Tyrus,” Tyrus Wong. The legacy of Wong has helped inspire new generations of media makers and continues to this day. The showcase kicks off with “Tyrus” and continues with “Bambi,” which owes its visual DNA to Wong, and “The Super Story Behind ‘Sanjay’s Super Team.’” Director Sanjay Patel and producer Nicole Grindle discuss the magic and inspiration behind Pixar’s first lead character of color in the Oscar-nominated short “Sanjay’s Super Team.
Mabel Cheung is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent directors. Her international acclaim reflects over 30 years of award-winning works, beginning with her “Migration Trilogy.” CAAMFest presents two of Cheung’s influential films: her newest feature and CAAMFest’s Centerpiece Narrative “A Tale of Three Cities,” chronicling the epic love story of Jackie Chan’s parents, and “The Soong Sisters,” originally released in 1997 and considered one of the highlights of Cheung’s career. The true story, starring Maggie Cheung (“Hero”), Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and Vivian Wu (“The Last Emperor”), explores the three fascinating sisters whose high-profile marriages, celebrity status and family ties elevated them to positions of wealth and power, profoundly shaping Chinese history in the early 20th century.
Director, writer, actor, producer, musician and CAAMFest alum H.P. Mendoza is a local treasure. Born and raised in San Francisco and currently living in the Mission district, Mendoza’s diverse portfolio includes “Fruit Fly” (SFIAAFF ’09) and “I Am a Ghost” (SFIAAFF ’12), as well as a highlight, “Colma: The Musical.” To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the latter film, CAAMFest will be reuniting many of the cast for an unforgettable, profanity-laced sing-along. Mendoza will also kick off the Asian Art Museum’s new series, “Takeover,” where he will host a one-night event and party at the museum, mashing up his preoccupations with musicals, horror films, 8-bit games and virtual reality.
Tadashi Nakamura’s world premiere of “Mele Murals” looks beyond the obvious beauty of the Hawaiian Islands to the deep connections among the local community. Local artist Estria Miyashiro and fellow artist John Hina travel to the rural town of Waimea, where they attempt to connect ancient Hawaiian traditions and graffiti with the youth of tomorrow. “Mele Murals” will be part of CAAMFest’s return to the Oakland Museum of California, which will capture the intersection of Pacific Island and Bay Area culture.
Continuing the theme of Hawaiian culture is a celebration of food and family with Ty Sanga’s “Family Ingredients.” Chef Ed Kenney takes us on a culinary adventure, exploring traditional Hawaiian foods poi (a paste-like dish made from taro) and pipikaula (salted dried beef) and how they have influenced culture in the Aloha State.
Filmmaker Matt Yamashita’s new film, “Sons of Halawa,” follows subject Pilipo Solatorio, the last native Hawaiian from Halawa, on a search for someone to learn and pass ancient traditions to future generations before they vanish with him. (Preceded by a short, “Roots of ‘Ulu.”)
In Conversation With Randall Okita
Canadian artist Randall Okita’s diverse portfolio blends sculpture, cinematography, technology and even stunt work. CAAM welcomes Okita to present many of his short films and to share his experiences and influences with attendees. Shorts in the program include: “Machine With Wishbone,” “Fish in Barrel,” “No Contract,” “Portrait as a Random Act of Violence” and “The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer.”
Additional Special Events
Justin Lin’s entry to the “Fast and the Furious” franchise has been considered the biggest thematic departure in the series. In partnership with Wild 94.9 and You Offend Me, You Offend My Family (YOMYOMF), CAAMFest welcomes back “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” to the big screen for its 10-year anniversary. Revisit the high-octane ride set in the underground world of Tokyo’s street racing scene. With special guests in attendance.
Two Community Screenings capture and address impactful subjects and ideas this year. The world premiere of Christopher C.C. Wong’s poignant documentary “Be About It” examines life-altering and day-to-day moments of two Bay Area men, reporter Alan Wang and athlete AJ Jabonero, both living with hepatitis B, and the reach and cost of the infection in the Asian American community. “Everything Will Be,” directed by award-winning Julia Kwan, follows the fading light of Vancouver’s Chinatown, exploring the loss of history at the expense of modern trends.
Youth Workshops continue at CAAMFest with familiar ideas in existing and fresh settings. In its second year as a signature CAAM program, “Muslim Youth Voices” follows acclaimed filmmaker Musa Syeed as he helps young people craft their unique stories disintegrating the borders built on stereotypes. “1990 Institute: Youth Voices on China” is the culmination of an ongoing online video contest that cultivates global awareness within young American communities. Catch a sneak peek of local artist and CAAM alum James Q. Chan’s work-in-progress, CAAM-funded documentary “Frank Wong’s Chinatown” (working title), which highlights the fascinating story of 81-year-old Frank Wong, a self-taught artist who has created extraordinarily detailed miniature models of San Francisco’s Chinatown from his fading memories.
For the fourth iteration of its innovative home movie initiative, CAAMFest is excited to present a compilation of Chinese American home movies from the 1930s through the 1970s, with live musical accompaniment by acclaimed jazz musician Francis Wong. “Memories to Light” is a project that collects and digitizes home movies — and the stories they tell — to share with the broad public.
An interactive highlight of each CAAMFest is its panels, and 2016 is no exception with discussions on the ever-changing world of media and how Asian Americans are increasing visibility and opportunity in the broadcast and streaming universe.
Golden Globe-nominated Netflix series “Master of None” has had critics and viewers binge-watching every episode and thirsting for more. Series co-creator Alan Yang and cast member Kelvin Yu will be stopping by CAAMFest for a panel on the award-winning show. Yang and Yu will divulge juicy details on the show’s inspiration and production as well as their own experiences in an industry full of both opportunity and obstacle.
“Changing the Channel on Gender Roles”: CAAMFest will explore the bane of existence for many Asian American actors: typecasting. For Asian American women and men looking for work, roles can be severely limited and stereotyped, especially when it comes to appearing as a character intended (or specifically not intended) for romance. Featuring actress Vella Lovell and Bay Area native, Filipino American actor Vincent Rodriguez III from the hit series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Rodriguez and Lovell join other actors and filmmakers to discuss the gradually changing landscape for gender roles and what they hope the future holds.
“A Brave New Digital World”: As online platforms like Netflix and Amazon continue to grow mainstream media, 2016 will see a record number of new digital services looking to fund and distribute content from and for diverse communities. Pradeepa Jeeva and Philip W. Chung of You Offend Me, You Offend My Family (YOMYOMF) will speak with key industry players to explore the shift to digital for many artists seeking opportunity.
Directions in Sound
For over 11 years, Directions in Sound has been the festival’s premier Asian and Asian American music gathering of emerging and cutting-edge artists. Highlighting leading Asian American musicians, Directions in Sound exposes the Bay Area to innovative artists from the underground music scene. This year’s program brings back Directions in Sound: Korean Showcase, featuring international groups dripping with rhythmic and vocal talents: Big Phony, HEO, WYM and Love X Stereo.
Once again, CAAMFest follows the live beats to the silver screen to find music-centric films that add a visual layer to the sounds that accompany them. Making its West Coast premiere, Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein’s “Mad Tiger” chronicles the relationship between two Japanese bandmates, Peelander-Yellow and Peelander-Red, as their friendship is tested and both seek greater meaning in their lives through their art and relationship with each other. In “No Land’s Song,” Iranian director Ayat Najafi chronicles his sister Sara’s grim outlook on the fading presence of women in music, and her journey in reviving the female voice in music and culture.
San Francisco’s very own Kollaboration joins forces with CAAMFest for the yearly Social Club event at Slate Bar in the heart of the Mission district. Join filmmakers, artists and fellow attendees to hang out, celebrate and unwind in good company. Featuring R&B soul group The Delivery, vocal soloist Jayne Rio, Korean-American R&B singer Lawrence Park, and ambient soul duo AstraLogik.
Narrative and Documentary Competition
A visual feast of themes and stories await in this year’s Narrative Competition, including Frank Lotito’s “Good Ol’ Boy,” a charming, nostalgia-filled story of a young Indian boy’s cultural journey in small town America; Viet Nguyen’s “Crush the Skull,” the campy horror story of a robbery gone wrong when the thieves make the worst choice in houses to steal from; and Tanuj Chopra’s “Grass,” a smoke-filled stoner comedy following a dynamic duo of friends on their adventures in the park over one day.
Other competition films include Jonathan Lim’s “Pali Road” in which a woman tries to uncover the truth when she awakens from an accident with memories of a life that no one else believes to be real; Dax Phelan’s “Jasmine,” a psychological thriller exploring one man’s obsession with a stranger whom he believes murdered his late wife; and Hui-Eun Park’s “Two Lunes,” two tales of experiences that immigrant women encounter during their new lives in Los Angeles and Vietnam.
Unique perspectives communicate through six films in this year’s Documentary Competition. Films include Ben Wang’s “Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story,” the local story of prisoner, immigrant, son and activist Eddy Zheng and his journey to redemption; Dianne Griffin and Erica Jordan’s “Painted Nails,” a film about a San Francisco-based nail salon owner whose work-related health issues helped fuel a movement for safer salons in general; and Tadashi Nakamura’s “Mele Murals,” a Hawaiian story following artists’ attempts to combine graffiti and ancient traditions in an effort to carry them to future generations.
Also included: Amy Benson, Scott Squire and Ramyata Limbu’s “Drawing the Tiger,” an observation of a Nepalese family’s actions and hopes to send their daughter away for a better education turning into their own tragedy; Mina Shum’s “Ninth Floor,” the story of the 1969 Sir George Williams riot in Canada that put racial tensions in the spotlight (preceded by a short, Jeff Adachi’s “Racial Facial”); and David Grabias’ “Operation Popcorn,” a film following a Hmong man’s rise in his community and the results of his efforts to help other Hmong people fight off attacks from the communist Lao government.
A collection of some of the best international Asian films, CinemAsia explores a vibrant scope of themes and ideas that cross all borders. This year showcases films from Singapore, Iran, Vietnam, India and many more destinations. Highlights include:
Victor Vu’s “Yellow Flowers on Green Grass,” a box office hit exploring the tests on bonds between two Vietnamese brothers against a beautifully pastoral backdrop;
Royston Tan’s “3688,” a Singaporean musical dramedy following a woman honoring her dementia-ridden father by entering in a singing competition;
Mirai Konishi’s “Kampai: For the Love of Sake,” a documentary following sake connoisseurs on their quest to learn more about the industry behind the rich and complex cultural staple in Japan and across the world;
Prashant Nair’s “Umrika,” a mix of drama, warmth, and bittersweetness as a small town in India lives vicariously through postcards written to them from one of their own; when the postcards stop, the traveler’s brother leaves to find him.
Also in the program:
Rithy Panh’s “France Is Our Mother Country,” which examines the French occupation of Cambodia, touching on the tragedy brought on by brute force during colonialism;
Ali Ahmadzadeh’s “Atomic Heart,” a surreal Iranian film that follows two friends on a night of drinking, political commentary and mystery when they are visited by an otherworldly figure;
Eric Khoo’s “In the Room,” Singapore’s first erotic film, which visits the same dilapidated hotel room through several decades of encounters;
Paul Soriano’s “Kid Kulafu,” the story behind real-life champion boxer Manny Pacquiao as he overcame obstacles as a child in the Philippines and found his fighting spirit;
Sunny Yu’s “The Kids,” a Taiwanese tale of one man’s undoing that follows how love and sacrifice are intertwined;
Fumito Fujikawa’s “The Name of the Whale,” an angst-filled story about a Japanese boy who grows into himself while dealing with family, friends and school-assigned whale fossil-hunting;
Zhao Qing’s “Please Remember Me,” a poignant documentary about a Chinese man tending his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife with compassionate loyalty;
Lee-Won Suk’s “The Royal Tailor,” a South Korean period piece where rivals battle in the realm of fashion and skill to be the king’s tailor;
Tso-Chi Chang’s “Thanatos, Drunk,” an exploration of love and loss in Taiwan, set around a dysfunctional family;
Viet Max’s “Yeu (Love),” the first mainstream LGBTQ Vietnamese film, witnessing the change from friendship to love between two women.
CAAMFest in Oakland
CAAM is thrilled to continue a third year of programs in Oakland, kicking off with the festival’s return to the Oakland Museum of California with a program capturing the intersection of Pacific Island and Bay Area culture, including the world premiere of Tad Nakamura’s “Mele Murals.” CAAMFest concludes with a full weekend of programming at the New Parkway Theater.
General Festival Information
San Francisco venues:
Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.
New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. (Japantown)
Alamo Drafthouse, 2550 Mission St.
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St.
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, 2665 Mission St.
Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St.
Slate Bar, 2925 16th St.
City College of San Francisco-Chinatown/North Beach Campus, 808 Kearny St.
Chinese Historical Society of America, 965 Clay St.
The New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St.
Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St.
SomaR Bar, 1727 Telegraph Ave.
Pricing for all regular screenings:
General admission tickets — $14
Tickets for students, seniors (65+) and disabled adults — $13 (limit one per program with ID only)
Tickets for CAAM members — $12 (limit two per program per membership ID)
Pricing excludes special events and galas.
Tickets can be purchased online www.caamedia.org and can be purchased at the CAAMFest box office at Alamo Drafthouse starting Thursday, March 3.