The Center for Asian American Media concluded an exciting eleven day run celebrating Asian and Asian American films, food, and music at CAAMFest37. As the nation’s largest festival of its kind, CAAMFest welcomed over 200 filmmakers and guests and showcased over 100 films from 15 countries, including 15 narrative films, 19 documentaries, and 53 short films and videos. CAAM also presented 13 world premieres, 2 North American premieres, 3 US premieres, 10 West Coast premieres, and 37 Bay Area premieres. Over 20,000 festival goers attending screenings all over the Bay, at venues including the historic Roxie and Castro Theaters, in the heart of Japantown at New People Cinema and AMC Kabuki 8, and across the bay at the Piedmont Theater.
AN ALL STAR AFFAIR
CAAMFest welcomed a number of special guests to the 37th Festival, including Dante Basco, Nichole Bloom, Gurinder Chadha, Oliver Siu Kuen Chan, Emily Chang, Osric Chau, Bin Chen, George Chen, Lynn Chen, S. Leo Chiang, Justin Chon, Tiffany Chu, Crisel Consunji, Jason DaSilva, Barre Fong, Yu Gu, Dan Lee, Dian Lee, Marion Lipschutz, Goh Nakamura, Bao Nguyen, Diane Paragas, Danny Pudi, Rick Quan, Wen Ren, Nadia Shihab, Prem Singh, Yang Sun, Alfred Sung, Tina Takemoto, Emily Ting, Corey Tong, Andrea A. Walter, Chihiro Wimbush, and Ruby Yang.
The Festival also honored filmmakers with Festival Spotlights. Experimental filmmaker Valerie Soe showcased her newest documentary, LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN, to a sold out theater. The Festival also hosted AAM: VALERIE SOE AND KRISTINA WONG EVENT – a mélange of Valerie Soe’s groundbreaking feminist short films along with the irreverent web series RADICAL CRAM SCHOOL by comedian and performance artist Kristina Wong.
CAAMFest37 ended with a second Spotlight and sold-out screening, the transnational adoption documentary GEOGRAPHIES OF KINSHIP directed by award-winning filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem. Special guests from the film included Estelle Cooke-Sampson and Kim Stoker, who were just a few among many transnational adoptees at the screening. In addition to the Closing Night Film, Borshay Liem also showed her poignant essay film FIRST PERSON PLURAL at the San Francisco Public Library.
At another sold out Gala screening, the Opening Night Film and World Premiere of CHINATOWN RISING showed to a packed house at the Castro Theatre. Directed by Chinatown natives Harry and Josh Chuck, the film kicked off a strong start to the Festival, which included an introduction by San Francisco Mayor London Breed and CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong. Filmmakers, special guests, press, and attendees followed the commencement event with the Opening Night Gala to drink, dance, and delight in the art at the Asian Art Museum.
Other Festival highlights include the reunion of cast members from THE JOY LUCK CLUB at a touching 25th anniversary screening of the film. Kieu Chinh, Rosalind Chao, Lisa Lu, Tamlyn Tomita, Michael Paul Chan, and Casting Director Heidi Levitt joined CAAMFest for a free community screening and a conversation moderated by Rick Quan. Originally scheduled as an outdoor screening on Waverly Place, heavy rain brought the screening indoors to the Chinatown YMCA who generously hosted the screening. The downpour didn’t deter dedicated fans from filling the venue at this remarkable retrospective, though – the screening was packed with admirers.
HIGH ENERGY AT NEW DIRECTIONS
Performed by Susan Lieu, 140 LBS: HOW BEAUTY KILLED MY MOTHER struck a chord with audiences over two emotional sold out performances at New People Cinema. New Oakland venue 7th West hosted CAAMFest’s premier music showcase, DIRECTIONS IN SOUND, featuring AZURE, CLUB CHAI, TRKRNR, LIL WAIFU & ARUMI, AUX CORD, and an electric performance by Oakland based GIRL SWALLOWS NIGHTINGALE. The Filipino Channel University (TFCU) and the Festival brought together a panel of Filipino American artists working in the film and entertainment world, including Bobby Rubio (Pixar Illustrator, Float), Dianne Paragas (Director, YELLOW ROSE), Eugene Kim (Director, CHERRY) and Justin Tipping (Director/Co-Writer, KICKS) for an informative talk on representation and visibility. CAAMFest also hosted the kick off to the new podcast SELF EVIDENT: ASIAN AMERICA’S STORIES hosted by Cathy Erway, now available to stream online. Also available online is Bao Nguyen’s docuseries WE GON’ BE ALRIGHT. The series is inspired by Jeff Chang’s essays in his acclaimed book by the same name, asking: why and how did we become so divided and what can we do now to be alright?
2019 AWARD WINNERS
COMCAST NARRATIVE COMPETITION: The Comcast Narrative Competition Award highlights the diversity and ingenuity of modern cinema and recognizes excellence in narrative filmmaking. The 2019 jury included Inkoo Kang, Journalist and Film Critic; Karim Ahmad, Director of Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance; and Serge Bakalian, Executive Director of Arab Film and Media Institute.
- Winner: YELLOW ROSE, dir. Diane Paragas
- Jury Statement: “YELLOW ROSE demonstrated an originality of vision that consistently defied expectations. It is a masterful directorial debut and features a simply beautiful performance from its signature lead. It is an intensely compelling melding of the story of a young artist finding her voice art against a world that fears and criminalizes those like her. It is deeply emotionally and socially resonant and it’s got some kickass music to boot.”
- Honorable Mention: GO BACK TO CHINA, dir. Emily Ting
- Jury Statement: “The jury would like to commend GO BACK TO CHINA for its multi-layered script, sterling performances, and overall visual charm. This film impressed with its unique emotional stakes and carefully crafted plot, which lent this winsome comedy a surprising and resonant poignancy.”
DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION: The Documentary Competition showcases a dynamic selection of films that fearlessly capture the challenging reality and surprising beauty inherent in the human experience. The 2019 jury included David Liu, Story Consultant; Mridu Chandra, Director IF/Then Shorts, Tribeca Film Institute; and Soumyaa Kapil Behrens, Director, The Documentary Film Institute, San Francisco State University.
- Winner: OUR TIME MACHINE, dir. Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang
- Jury Statement: “OUR TIME MACHINE is a deeply moving and artistic rendering of how memory and loss fuels the creative spirit.”
- WHEN WE WALK, dir. Jason DaSilva
- Jury Statement: “WHEN WE WALK exhibits a bravery in filmmaking that forces us to look at systemic barriers that disrupt a bond between a father and his son.”
AUDIENCE AWARD: The CAAMFest Audience Award gives valued members of our audience the honor of selecting their favorite films of the Festival.
- Winner: Narrative Feature: HAPPY CLEANERS, dirs. Julian Kim, Peter S. Lee
- Winner: Documentary Feature: FINDING THE VIRGO, dir. Barre Fong
SAN FRANCISCO FILM CRITICS AWARD: In partnership with the San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC), CAAM proudly celebrates cinematic achievements in global cinema. Award winners are selected by members of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, an organization of Bay Area film critics, reviewers, writers, authors and editors. The 2019 jury included Bernard Boo, Marcos Cerritos, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, Pam Grady, Lena Hertz, Rain Jokinen, Jonathan Kiefer, Randy Myers, and Bill Watters.
- Winner: LAST SUNRISE, dir. Wen Ren
LONI DING AWARD: The Loni Ding Award for Social Justice Documentary recognizes the film and filmmaker that most reflect the passions of late TV producer Loni Ding. Ding devoted her life to advocacy and played a key role in the founding of several public media organizations, including CAAM. The 2019 jury included Masashi Niwano, Festival & Exhibitions Director, CAAM; Stephen Gong, Executive Director, CAAM, Sapana Sakya, Talent Development, CAAM; and Brent Hall, CAAM Board Member and Former Student of Loni Ding. A cash prize is awarded to the winner of this award ($1,000).
- Winner: IN THIS FAMILY, dir. Drama del Rosario
- “Sharing my coming out story was an emotionally difficult process’ says del Rosario. ‘For ten years, in a little external hard drive stashed inside the drawers of my desk, I had kept precious raw audio files of my parents scolding me for being gay. I do not know what compelled me to record these conversations back then when I was thirteen years old. Perhaps, I had a gut feeling that these recordings would be put to greater use. Today, listening to these recordings after a decade, I still feel the hurt, yet I feel strong enough to openly speak about my story through film. If anything, I hope the viewers of this documentary film would see how my family has grown from homophobia. I would like to thank CAAMFest for this amazing award, and I would like to thank my crew and loved ones for helping me get through this personal documentary. May we continue to pursue purposeful work in the way that Loni Ding did. Thank you very much!”
InspirASIAN STUDENT FILM AWARD: Recognizing promising voices in Asian and Asian American media, the InspirASIAN Student Film Award is presented to college students who exemplify the voice of a new generation. The inspirASIAN STUDENT FILM AWARD is co-sponsored by InspirAsian, a nonprofit organization focused on the representation of Asian Pacific Islanders employed by AT&T Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiaries. A cash prize is awarded to the winners of this award ($1,000).
- Winner: SHARE, dirs. Barna Szasz and Ellie Wen
- Jury Statement: “Crafted with modern storytelling elements, like Instagram messaging and YouTube, SHARE tells a great story of how social media is changing our culture. A compelling, unexpected character arc kept the story engaging in this refreshing documentary.”
- Winner: MOONWALK WITH ME, dir. So Young Shelly Ho
- Jury Statement: “A beautifully poignant film about hurt and letting go, So Young Shelly Ho’s film is an outstanding effort that asks us questions we all struggle with. The film is commended for its gracefully executed cinematography, special effects, and the relatable content and touching story.”
READY, SET, PITCH!: CAAM Fellows presented projects to a panel to compete for a $10,000 award funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The 2019 Pitch jury includes Karim Ahmad, Director of Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance; Amy Hobby, Documentary Film Producer/Executive Director, TFI; Michael Kinomoto, Supervising Producer, ITVS; and Carrie Lozano, Documentary Filmmaker/Director, IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund.
- Winner: LIGHT OF THE SETTING SUN, dir. Vicky Du
- Jury Statement: “We all connected on an emotional level to this deeply personal story with its unique approach to a nontraditional narrative and a beautiful visual sample. This project has an immense opportunity to create positive social impact.”
Members support CAAM’s year‐round programming, including CAAMFest. They receive fantastic benefits including discounts on CAAMFest tickets, complimentary CAAMFest tickets, and invitations to events throughout the year. For more information on membership and upcoming CAAM events visit www.caamedia.org.
CAAMFEST GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGES OUR SPONSORS
CAAMFest37 is supported in part by the following: Xfinity, AARP, Arab Film and Media Institute, Asian Art Museum, Cooper White & Cooper LLP, Fitness SF, Goldhouse, Motion Picture Association of America, Pacific Islanders in Communications, San Francisco Symphony, HBO, Umpqua Bank, Film SF, Gala Festival Engine, Girl Friday Events, TFCU, Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Just Films / Ford Foundation, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco, Robert J. Louie Memorial Fund, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts.