Memoirs of a Superfan Vol. 11.6 – Make Home

At the World Premiere of "Daze of Justice," dir. Michael Siv. March 12, 2016. Photo by Leanne Koh.
CAAMFest is a sure route to culture and knowledge, an opportunity to loose our shackles of unknowing.

Memoirs of a Superfan Vol. 11.6 – Make Home

We are wounds striking at wounds
Unconscious, half awake, knowing only
Our immediate need:
Our defense, our hunger, our thirst,
Our anger.
In thoughtless battle, we forget
Our greatest need,
to heal.
To heal ourselves and each other
(You can’t do one without the other).
What is healing, anyway?
It begins with hearing.
Letting in
what’s been cut away.
What is healing?
Making whole.
Making home
For every sad and dreaming thing.


The take home message of CAAMFest is “make home.” Come Closer, yes, but invite someone in. I’ve seen 40 shorts and 7 features since Day 1 of the Festival, and about 20 features on screener before that. There hasn’t been an off-note in the whole bunch. You can’t go wrong with this festival. Masashi Niwano, Lin Kung, and all the screening committees have done an amazing job this year, and like every year, I’m amazed at the talent in front of and behind the camera. We aren’t some sideshow to the main act, distant cousins and black sheep to the honored and chosen few at the Oscars, Golden Globes or any other award stage. We are as central as they. They haven’t made a home for us, yet, but we are making a home for each other, here at CAAMmes, our festival on the shores of tomorrow.

Eddy Zheng was inspirational. “As long as (we’re) breathing, there is hope.” Breathing is a centering, grounding, necessary and vital act, but it is also a metaphor. We can breathe with our minds, too. Paying attention to your breath can make you a careful observer of your mind, noticing the callouses and barriers you construct on a moment-to-moment basis, out of fears and needs, built to join pleasure and avoid pain. But why should we build barriers to thoughts, concepts, and emotions? Certainly, sometimes they are too painful to digest. It takes time. But the gentle exposures of a film, processed in safety, can be a meditative experience, allowing you to breathe in the scenes, means and miens of others. To breathe with the mind is to incorporate and integrate all experience. To breathe with the self is to true the self, to find our deeper truth.

Michael Siv’s Centerpiece Documentary DAZE OF JUSTICE followed survivors of the Khmer Rouge back to the Cambodian Tribunals, looking for justice and even reconciliation. Professor Leakhana Nou of CSU-Long Beach, one of the organizers of the trip, has a monumental and expansive dream of the heart. She, and the women traveling with her, realized that even the children of perpetrators are wounded. Would an apology provide an antidote? It seems a tall order. Connection alone, though, is the very foundation of healing. The opposite of suffering is belonging, and Siv wonderfully observes the process of belonging, of making home, across the generations to his own family and newborn son in this city, so far from the Killing Fields, but still touched by their awful ambit.

I must consider myself a philistine as I hadn’t seen Mabel Cheung’s films before this weekend. But A TALE OF THREE CITIES was extraordinary, and powerful motivation to see her 1997 film THE SOONG SISTERS tonight. CAAMFest is a sure route to culture and knowledge, an opportunity to loose our shackles of unknowing. TALE was the true story of Jackie Chan’s parents in war-torn China. Only their love for each other guided them through years of separation and desperation. Does love like that even exist anymore? We seem so quick to discard instead of discover each other these days. Cheung was quick to relate the tragic story of 1940s China to the modern refugee crises. Last year, fully 1% of the world’s population was made refugee, over 60 million people. These numbers will be dwarfed in the years to come by the refugees of climate change. There is an urgent need to make home against the displacing ways of the world we share.

"Born With It" from Portraits from the Schoolyard shorts program.
“Born With It” from Portraits from the Schoolyard shorts program.

There was a wealth of short films this weekend, too numerous to call out individually. Like many of our films, the shorts are often hard or impossible to see outside their festival runs. Only one shorts program is left (PORTRAITS FROM THE SCHOOLYARD). Don’t miss it.

Viet Le’s ECLIPSE (ruby) was a sophisticated, visually intriguing exploration of trauma and diaspora in the medium of music, dance and costume, the second part of his trilogy of shorts. San Francisco Public Defender and filmmaker Jeff Adachi’s RACIAL FACIAL seeks to portray the history of racism in an eight minute music video montage of images that will leave an indelible imprint. Robert Riutta’s DONUT SHOP told the incredible story of doctor-turned-refugee-turned-donut-shop-owner-turned-social-worker Sam Ath Eath. Riutta reminds us that everyone has a hidden story for which we must make room if we are to understand.

And to understand is to love. Yunhee Ye’s MUSH told the story of a man who spends his day cleaning up after those who died in their rooms alone, and a woman who is dying of her loneliness. We are all alone, yet we can still choose to belong and love. Yiyi Yin’s WAN MEI (Perfect), was a surreal tale of a couple that allows their idealizations, their false “loves,” to destroy their reality. Love goes sour in stereotype too – you can watch Joy Regullano and Sean Dacanay’s WHITE FETISH online.

What a feast, what a home, what a love we’re sharing this week. Come make home at CAAMFest. We’re saving a seat for you.

+ + +

Ravi Chandra, M.D. is a psychiatrist and writer in San Francisco. He writes The Pacific Heart blog for Psychology Today. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or best of all, sign up for an occasional newsletter at, and find out about his upcoming book on the psychology of social networks through a Buddhist lens, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, and his e-book on Asian American Anger, now available for free download. More CAAMFest MOSF blog posts can be found here and here.