It’s a Wrap! Our First CAAMFest Online Brings Us Together, Virtually

Fruit Fly 10th Anniversary
Fruit Fly 10th Anniversary sing-a-long from CAAMFest Online
The pandemic forced us to try new ways to connect while sheltering in place. Thank you for making this experiment a success!

Earlier this year, who would have predicted that CAAMFest—during our 40th anniversary year—would be entirely online, with thousands of people live-streaming from around the world? But last Friday, we wrapped up ten days of virtual programming with the 10th anniversary screening of H.P. Mendoza’s Fruit Fly, beginning with a red carpet walk down the red carpet (quarantine style) and ending  with a surprise cast and crew (some wearing masks) reunion and sing-a-long of the song “Workshop”. In many ways, the idea of workshopping our craft, adjusting and re-inventing with the help of a supportive community perfectly sums up CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home.

Six weeks ago, we were finalizing our plans for our in-person film festival when the San Francisco Bay Area went into shelter-in-place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And like many of you, the CAAM staff began working from home (with toddlers and dogs in the background) and the anxiety of the unknown hovering in all of our minds. We shifted to communicating over video calls and Slack and instant messages, instead of popping into someone’s office and chatting about an idea.

CAAM Staff Zoom

We decided that in spite of the pandemic—and maybe especially because of the rise in COVID-related anti-Asian racism—it was especially important that we move forward with the festival, in some shape or form. So Festival Director Masashi Niwano got on the phone with filmmakers and other arts organizations. The result? CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home, a way to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month while sheltering in place, with over 20 screenings, live performances and interviews.

“The pandemic forced us to experiment with new ways to engage with our community while we shelter in place.” Masashi explains. “The overwhelming positive response to the online festival shows that we’re able to provide some levity and community during this time when many people feel isolated.”

But how do you move screenings, discussions and parties from venues like the Castro and the Roxie theaters and the Asian Art Museum to the internets? Events Production Manager Krystal Fernandes led a team, including Marky Enriquez, Czarina Garcia, Rabindra Hayashi, Jonathan Hsieh, Lauren Lola, James Ott, Jesse Dubus, and Joanna Chin, that researched 30 different platforms (YouTube? Facebook Live? Zoom?) and tested them out during staff happy hours and numerous dry runs.

“Less than a month before Opening Night, we found out about Filmbot,” says Krystal, referring to the platform that hosted most of the CAAMFest Online screenings. “We finalized the plan the Monday before festival, so we were learning as we went.”

Opening Night

Lynn Chen
Lynn Chen takes a break from her puzzles to join the CAAMFest Online Opening Night Q&A

By Opening Night, over 500 people to joined us for a screening of Lynn Chen’s I Will Make You Mine, followed by a live Q&A with Lynn and co-stars Goh Nakamura and Yea-Ming Chen. Goh and Yea-Ming kept the mood going afterwards with live performances at the Opening Night (House) Party, along with our own DJ Proof.

Filmmaker Summit

Filmmaker Summit Zoom Happy Hour

CAAMFest is also a time for the filmmakers in our community to get together and support each other. Our Talent Development & Special Projects Manager Sapana Sakya worked hard to create the Filmmaker Summit: Work from Home Edition, featuring two days of panel discussions and happy hours on May 14-15. The unexpected side-effect? A record 200 folks joined in from around the globe.

“CAAM not only supports filmmakers when they share their finished projects with the public, but we have a forty year legacy of nurturing emerging artists at every step of their career,” says Executive Director Stephen Gong. “It’s been remarkable to see how the community has come together as we have been under attack.”

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our creators was a hot topic, with veteran filmmakers and funding organizations sharing tips on producing, finding funding, and even coping with mental health challenges during this time.

Read all our posts about the Filmmaker Summit: Work from Home Edition

Other CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home highlights


First Look: You Are Here Over 500 people tuned in for a sneak peek at director James Q. Chan’s documentary series about San Francisco’s Chinatown. Chan was joined by co-producer Anna Oh and Chinatown historian Dorothy G.C. Quock for a lively Q&A about the future of this historic neighborhood.

Focus on Asian Americans (and POC communities) in Politics 2020 is a presidential election year and Asian Americans and communities of color are rising up and taking a stand. We explored the complexities of politics and activism through two outstanding documentaries And She Could Be Next (Co-directed by CAAMFest Spotlight Honoree Alum Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia) and First Vote (Directed by Yi Chen).

Bay Area Food Stories Shorts At a time when restaurants and the food supply chain are in crisis, over 1,000 people watched an online screening of the short documentaries The Food Historian, Roots and Wings: Yana Gilbuena, and Takahashi Market, followed by a Q&A with filmmakers.

Live Music Performances and Food Demo CAAMFest’s tagline is Film. Music. Food., so it was important for us to incorporate live concerts and a cooking demo. We showcased music by Goh Nakamura, Yea-Ming Chen, Ruby Ibarra and DJ Proof. Cookie activist and author Jasmine Cho did a live demo of how she creates her “pandemic Ali Wong” cookie (even stars look different during a quarantine!). Find out how you can enter CAAM’s cookie decorating contest to win a copy of Jasmine’s book.

Ruby Ibarra
Ruby Ibarra performs live during CAAMFest Online

Spotlight Honorees

CAAMFest Alum Alice Wu Following a screening and watch party for The Half of It, Saving Face cast Joan Chen, Michelle Krusiec, and Lynn Chen surprised Wu for a 15-year reunion and live Q&A
Ruby Ibarra Bay Area Filipina American rapper, music producer, and spoken word artist, performed live after a screening of her music videos and a teaser for her upcoming documentary 7000 Miles.

List of Participating CAAMFest Filmmakers, Artists and Panelists

CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home welcomed a number of special guests, including Alice Wu (Spotlight Honoree), Anna Oh (Director), Bushra Amiwala (Subject), Dorothy G.C. Quock (Subject), Drama Del Rosario (Director), Eris Qian (Director), Goh Nakamura (Actor, Musician), Grace Lee (Co-Director), H.P. Mendoza (Director), Irene Yadao (Co-Director), James Q. Chan (Director), Jasmine Cho (Artist), L.A. Renigen (Actor), Leena Pendharkar (Director), Lisa Yadao (Co-Director), Lynn Chen (Director), Manjula Varghese (Director), Marjan Safinia (Co-Director), Michelle Sampior (Co-Director), Royce Akifumi Wilmot (Director), Ruby Ibarra (Spotlight Honoree), Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik (Subject), Yea-Ming Chen (Actor, Musician), Yi Chen (Director)

We are continuing to monitor the process of opening up the Bay Area and hope to bring you more programs, whether it’s in-person or online, we celebrate our 40th anniversary year. Please continue to check our website for more details.

Thanks for continuing to be part of the CAAMily!

 Fruit Fly cast Zoom

Thanks To Our Co-Presenters

Asian American Documentary Network (A-DOC), Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, AYPAL: Building API Community Power, Bad Feminists Making Films and Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Balay Kreative, Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), Bindlestiff Studio, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Donaldina Cameron House, Frameline, Hong Kong Association of Northern California (HKANC), Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Kearny Street Workshop, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates: Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP), San Francisco Chapter, Pacific Islanders in Communications, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF),, The Queer Paulettes, Undiscovered SF

Thanks To Our Sponsors

CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home is supported in part by the following: AARP; Cooper, White & Cooper, LLP; Motion Picture Association; San Francisco Symphony; Film SF; IW Group; Nielsen; and Filmbot. Special thanks to charity partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the following institutional funders: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ford Foundation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation, and San Francisco Japantown Foundation.