Whether it was at the Fort Mason drive-in, during a live screening or through an on-demand program, we are grateful to see so many in our community turn out for CAAMFest FORWARD. From the festival’s kick-off with a nights at the drive-in on Wednesday, October 14 and Thursday, October, 15 to its close on Sunday, October 18 with the Bay Area premiere of 76 Days, CAAMFest FORWARD was a festival for these times and the days to come.
“In honor of CAAM’s 40th anniversary this fall, we called this festival CAAMFest FORWARD as a reminder of our belief in the importance of storytelling in holding a community together, as we move forward together even during these difficult times,” says CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong, adding, “A number of our films spoke directly to the challenges facing our world this year.”
Two Nights at the Drive-In
Excitement filled the air as Ruby Ibarra and The Balikbayans caravanned into the parking lot on a golden fall evening in San Francisco for the sold-out Filipino American History Month Celebration, featuring the world premieres of 7000 Miles: Homecoming and Lea Salonga in Concert at the Sydney Opera House. For many of us, this was the first time seeing a movie in public–and seeing each other–since San Francisco started sheltering-in-place nearly seven months ago.
“The Drive-In experience was exactly what I needed in life,” says CAAM Festival Director Masashi Niwano. “I haven’t seen the CAAM Family since the beginning of the year. So to be there together, along with so many of amazing filmmakers, colleagues and community friends, it was quite overwhelming. It’s my highlight of 2020.”
The next evening, crowds packed Fort Mason once again for a Hong Kong Cinema Showcase, featuring the classic film A Simple Life, as well as the U.S. premiere of My Prince Edward.
“At first, I was afraid that the drive-in would feel too impersonal as we stared at each other through car windshields, but it was really just the opposite,” says CAAM Events Production Manager Krystal Fernandes. “Through those windshields, we could see the excitement; through enthusiastic honking, we could sense the emotions of a community coming back together after being physically apart for so many months.”
Opening Night: Coming Home Again
Friday night, we gathered together virtually for the Opening Night U.S. premiere of director Wayne Wang’s Coming Home Again. Nostalgic for the days when we could share a meal with friends before walking over to the Castro Theater, I ordered Korean food (kalbi, of course) and enjoyed the film, starring Justin Chon as the main character Chang-rae (yes—Chang-rae Lee, whose New Yorker essay about cooking for his terminally ill mother this CAAM-produced film was based upon). Following the screening, Masashi interviewed director Wayne Wang about getting back to his independent filmmaking roots, working with Benu chef Corey Lee, and how this film is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the narrative is told primarily through the perspective of its male protagonist, Wayne Wang’s quietly contemplative film Coming Home Again, made me reflect on what it means to bear witness—not only to suffering—but to the roles and lived experience of Asian women,” reflects CAAM intern Sophia Rhee.
Centerpiece Presentation: Definition Please
Saturday evening’s Centerpiece Presentation featured the Bay Area premiere of Definition Please, by up and coming filmmaker Sujata Day, whom many people might recognize from HBO’s Insecure. Her debut feature film follows the story of a grown-up spelling bee champ who finds that it’s not so easy to navigate her adult life, with family issues including aging and mental illness. Following the screening was an interview with Day and her co-stars Ritesh Rajan and Anna Khaja.
“I enjoyed watching Definition Please and the Q&A afterward that had a great dialogue on pushing diversity in front of and behind the camera,” says CAAM Marketing Intern Victor Yuan. “It’s great to learn about the real experiences of filmmakers and get an insight into what went behind creating their film on an intimate level. In a way, it shares another level of storytelling and it makes me appreciate the film even more!”
Closing Night: 76 Days
The whirlwind five days of CAAMFest FORWARD concluded with a timely documentary. Our Closing Night film was 76 Days—directed by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and a Chinese filmmaker who wishes to remain anonymous–focuses on the experiences of patients and front-line medical professionals during the early days of the COVID pandemic in Wuhan, China. Following the screening, Wu spoke about the process of getting footage from the quarantined city and developing the narrative arc of this powerful film.
“76 Days is a direct reminder of the terrible pandemic, but also of the indomitable human spirit that can bring order to chaos and remind us that we’re all in this together,” says CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong, who interviewed Wu during the post-show Q&A.
These are just a few of the highlights from CAAMFest FORWARD, which also provided four First Looks at works in progress by filmmakers in our community, as well as over 40 films and timely conversations that were available on-demand through the CAAMFest website.
Find out who the CAAMFest 2020 Award Winners are!
Thanks to Our Sponsors
CAAMFest FORWARD is made possible with lead support from Presenting Sponsor AARP. Additional support is provided by Cooper, White & Cooper, LLP; Motion Picture Association; San Francisco Symphony; Pacific Islanders in Communications; Comcast NBCUniversal; Home Box Office, Inc.; Film SF; IW Group; Nielsen; California Bank & Trust; and Filmbot. Special thanks to Charity Partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the following institutional funders and government agencies: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, National Endowment for the Arts, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco.
About Presenting Sponsor AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50-plus to choose how they live as they age. AARP strengthens communities and advocates for health security, financial stability, and personal fulfillment by providing ongoing and up-to-date resources. Learn more at aarp.org/aapi and @AARPAAPI on social media.