CAAMFest FORWARD Symposium Celebrates Asian American Storytelling and Its Impact

As part of this year’s CAAMFest FORWARD and our 40th anniversary year, we’re proud to host our FORWARD Symposium, a two-session program examining Asian American storytelling and the impact CAAM has had on the field and our community over the past four decades. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, this symposium will feature recognized documentary filmmakers, media makers, experts, thought leaders, and Asian American Studies scholars. We invite you to join us for these enriching dialogues which will be hosted virtually. This is a moment for us to gather trailblazers from the Asian American media-making community and celebrate them, their contributions to American film and media arts, and the social impact of their work. 

Session 1: PAST // PRESENT

Thursday, October 15, 2020
1:00-2:30 p.m. PDT
Moderated by Stephen Gong

Can Asian American media makers be empowered to explore the vital issues facing their communities? In what ways does the Asian American community represent America? In 1980, these were some of the essential questions that led to the start of the Center for Asian American Media (originally NAATA, National Asian American Telecommunication Association). Forty years later, these questions continue to be at the core of not only our organization, but also Asian American cinema in general. But how did we get here? In this conversation, we will engage high-profile and veteran documentarians, emerging filmmakers, scholars, arts and cultural community organizations to examine and discuss the artistic and social impact and future of Asian American cinema. 


Renee Tajima-Pena

Renee Tajima Pena is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and professor of Asian American Studies at UCLA. She is a series producer of the groundbreaking CAAM co-produced documentary Asian Americans, which was broadcast nationally on PBS in May 2020. Her previous films include Who Killed Vincent Chin?, My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha and No Más Bebés. Her films have screened at the Cannes, SXSW, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto international film festivals and the Whitney Biennial.


grace lee

Grace Lee is an award-winning filmmaker who previously won a Peabody award for American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. Other documentary credits include K-Town’92 and Off the Menu: Asian America, and The Grace Lee Project. She is also the producer/director of And She Could Be Next, a two-episode docuseries about women of color transforming politics that was broadcast nationally on PBS in June 2020.


pj raval

PJ Raval is a queer, first generation Filipino American filmmaker whose work explores the overlooked subcultures and identities within the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community. PJ recently completed Call Her Ganda (awarded “Excellence in Documentary” by the 2020 NLGJA Association of LGBTQ Journalists) and is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.



Thursday, October 15, 2020
3:00-4:30 p.m. PDT
Moderated by Sapana Sakya

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it on many different levels, some yet unknown. We see the devastating impact it is having on the livelihoods of our filmmakers, our film institutions, and the wider media landscape. But through these challenges, what opportunities and changes could arise for filmmakers, especially those who have been historically underserved? How is this time of upheaval activating filmmakers to call for necessary changes to an unfair system? How has this time galvanized filmmakers and how they view themselves? How has this period of distancing and social unrest impacted the filmmaking form and in what ways? These are a few topics that we will explore with an all-star panel of media makers and industry professionals.


Chi-hui WangChi-hui Yang is the Senior Program Officer, JustFilms, Ford foundation and an acclaimed curator, film scholar, and educator. He has global experience in supporting emerging artists and in the wider field of independent film. Before joining the foundation in 2015, Chi-hui worked extensively as a film and video curator, including as a selection committee member for MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, consulting series producer for PBS’s POV, and curator of Comcast’s Cinema Asian America video-on-demand service. Among his independently curated programs are the 2008 Flaherty Film Seminar The Age of Migration, and the 2014 film series and symposium Lines and Modes: Media, Infrastructure, and Aesthetics. From 2000 to 2012, he was director of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, the largest event of its kind in the nation.

Lan Nguyen

Lan Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and was raised in Cambodia Town, Long Beach. Lan is a filmmaker, educator, and community organizer and cares deeply about issues such as immigration, incarceration, and racial justice. Lan utilizes documentary filmmaking as a tool for community organizing and social change. She has directed several short films about social justice issues, which have been screened in festivals, community centers, and universities. She was a 2019 NeXt Doc Fellow and teaches ethnic studies at California State University, Long Beach.


Nausheen DadabhoyNausheen Dadabhoy is a Pakistani-American director and cinematographer from California. As a cinematographer, Nausheen has lensed a number of narrative and documentary films: The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion (2019), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently streaming on Netflix; La Femme et Le TGV (2016), a live-action short Oscar nominee; the Emmy Award-winning Armed with Faith (2018, additional cinematographer); Girl Unbound: War to Be Her (2016), which premiered at TIFF and aired on POV; Conscience Point (2019), which aired on Independent Lens; and J’adore Nawal a short for HBO Documentaries (2018), which premiered at Sundance. Her directorial debut The Ground Beneath Their Feet (2014) premiered at IDFA in the first appearance competition. She is currently directing her second feature film, An Act of Worship, which has received support from the Ford Foundation, IFP, Field of Vision, Hot Docs and Sundance, among others.

How to Attend

For more information or to reserve your spot, visit the CAAMFest website. Both of these sessions are free to the public.