CAAMFest40 Gala Presentations Will Be Back in Theaters This May

We're back in theaters May 12-22! Join us for our Opening Night film "Free Chol Soo Lee" and more fresh new programs.

We’re excited to announce the program for CAAMFest40! This year marks the 40th anniversary of our festival, which is returning with a hybrid of in-person events and virtual screenings. CAAMFest40 takes place May 12-22, 2022 and also marks the inaugural festival for Thúy Trần, the new Festival and Exhibitions Director at CAAM. 

“In recognition of the 40-year history of CAAMFest, we honor its legacy by drawing our attention to emerging and established artists, filmmakers, musicians, and other voices of our community,” explains Trần. “CAAMFest40 is a celebration of not only listening, watching, relating, and enjoying such voices, but, moreover, I see it as the community statement—showing the world what it is like to be Asian and Asian American.” 

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, CAAM will once again offer in-person events across venues in San Francisco and Oakland. “The continuing rise of anti-Asian hate crimes makes the return of CAAMFest especially vital,” says CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong. “The festival is a showcase for Asian and Asian American voices and also a celebration of the neighborhoods that have been important hubs for our community, such as SOMA Pilipinas and San Francisco Chinatown.” 

Opening Night returns to the Castro Theatre and Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and Closing Night will be held at New Parkway Theater in Oakland. Screenings will also take place at the newly renovated Great Star Theater in Chinatown, and at SFMOMA, in conjunction with CAAM’s Representing Chinatown exhibit currently on display at the museum’s Koret Education Center. Virtual screenings of select programs will be available on demand during the duration of the festival. Here are some of the highlight.

Still from the CAAMFest40 Opening Night film “Free Chol Soo Lee”, Image Courtesy of Grant Din


Free Chol Soo Lee, directed by Eugene Yi, Julie Ha

Thursday, May 12, 6:30 p.m. at the Castro Theatre

In 1973, Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee was wrongfully convicted of a gangland murder in San Francisco Chinatown. Ten years later, the landmark efforts of the local pan-Asian community helped set him free. However, was an unexpected icon ready for the outside world after years on Death Row?

BAD AXE CAAMFest Centerpiece Documentary
Still from CAAMFest40 Centerpiece Documentary “Bad Axe”


Bad Axe, directed by David Siev

Sunday, May 15, 6:00 p.m. at Great Star

On the eve of pandemic shutdowns, burgeoning filmmaker David Siev returns to his hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, a rural red pocket of America. This personal and intimate portrait of a Cambodian-Mexican family shows the struggles of sustaining the American Dream amidst a pandemic and clout of deep set racism. 



Leonor Will Never Die, directed by Martika Ramirez Escobar 

Saturday, May 14, 5:30 p.m. at SFMOMA Phyllis Wattis Theater

What if you could change what was happening before your very eyes? Genres collide in this wild tale of an aging filmmaker who becomes the hero of her own unfinished script, after she’s knocked into a coma by a television. 

Still from CAAMFest40 Closing Night film “Every Day in Kaimuki”


Every Day in Kaimukī, directed by Alika Tengan

Sunday, May 22, 7:00 p.m. at New Parkway

When his girlfriend receives an opportunity outside of their small Hawaiian town, Kaimukī, Naz also decides to leave. Though, the journey towards the hustle and bustle of New York spurs Naz to question everything—from logistics for his cat to whether he’ll ever find belonging.

Still from CAAMFest40 Hong Kong Cinema Showcase “Anita”


With support from the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco (HKETO), CAAMFest40 presents a dynamic series of contemporary narrative films from Hong Kong. 

ANITA, directed by Longman Leung

Anita Mui lost her father when she was young and grew up in a single parent household where she fell into show business for survival. Anita and her sister sang to provide for their family. It skyrocketed Anita to stardom, but it was also her eventual downfall. This is the story of Anita Mui, the “daughter of Hong Kong” and a beloved Cantopop icon. 

DRIFTING, directed by Jun Li

Ex-prisoner Fai is roughing it on the streets, but the government doesn’t care why. The government doesn’t care why he’s a junkie or why he went to jail. Should they? Fai lives in one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong, and he’s not alone. 


This series of films is a collaboration with our National Multicultural Alliance (NMCA) partner, Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC). PIC supports, advances, and develops Pacific Island media content and talent that results in a deeper understanding of Pacific Island history, culture, and contemporary challenges. 


EVERY DAY IN KAIMUKĪ, directed by Alika Tengan

When his girlfriend receives an opportunity outside of their small Hawaiian town, Kaimukī, Naz also decides to leave. Though, the journey towards the hustle and bustle of New York spurs Naz to question everything—from logistics for his cat to whether he’ll ever find belonging.


Still from CAAMFest40 Pacific Shorts “Last Hawaiian Sugar”


These tales from the Pacific dive deep into our relationship with land, culture, and mythology: a Samoan girl reconciles her spiritual connection to the sugar plantation her family works on, a Chamoru Master blacksmith seeks a place for his craft in the modern world, a desperate young woman takes on a mysterious job retrieving sacred stones, and scientists urgently attempt to save Hawaiian snails as they face imminent extinction. 

LAST HAWAIIAN SUGAR, directed by Déjà Cresencia Bernhardt

KÅNTAN HERERU – A BLACKSMITH’S SONG, directed by Sean Lizama

RIVER OF SMALL GODS, directed by Bradley Tangonan

KĀHULI, directed by Chris Johns



Thursday, May 12, 10:00 p.m. at the Asian Art Museum

Surround yourself in the hip-hop stylings of a multi-piece orchestra led by composer and pianist JooWan Kim. Strings, drums, piano, and the power of voice brought together by “Method Sampling,” a principle of taking unrelated ideas to transpire new ones. Hear the MC unfold the night and guide you on a musical journey accompanied by dance, lyric, and sound. 


Saturday, May 21, 12:30 p.m. at Yerba Buena Gardens

In partnership with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, CAAM spotlights the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District in an outdoor music showcase featuring emerging Pinay voices. From Union City, singer-songwriter Kiyomi brings R&B stylings based on personal experiences. Ouida, named one of Nylon Magazine‘s rising musicians, blends catchy pop melodies with jazz, R&B, and blues. Up-and-coming turntablist, DJ Bitesize, will be spinning and scratching party tunes as well. A celebration of the generations of Filipinos throughout San Francisco and beyond, the event also brings partnerships with additional SOMA community organizations. 



Saturday, May 21st @ 3 p.m., SFMOMA 

Join us for a wide-ranging conversation on the ways in which generations of Asian American residents, artists, and filmmakers have recorded very different qualities of San Francisco’s iconic Chinatown neighborhood. Lenore Chinn, artist and niece of photographer Benjamen Chinn, will be joined by James Q. Chan, producer and director of films such as Forever, Chinatown, to discuss a selection of photographs and moving images capturing people, places, and community events in Chinatown through the years. Moderated by Stephen Gong. 


Date TBD 

NBC’s hit show “Young Rock,” takes a comedic look back at the life and times of Dwayne Johnson’s youth. Join cast members and writers to find out what it’s like behind the scenes to bring these stories to life, all while paving the way for Pacific Islander representation on television.


Available virtually on-demand during Festival

Authentic representation is great, but who defines what “authentic representation” is – in and outside Asian Hollywood? Dino-Ray Ramos, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DIASPORA, holds an unapologetic roundtable conversation with Asian American leaders in Hollywood as they discuss the challenges that marginalized voices face in the film and TV industry and how it has impacted the Asian American community. 


Saturday, May 14th @ 12 p.m., Great Star Theater

This special presentation highlights excerpts from Li-Shin Yu’s documentary about the 1900 bubonic plague and its impact on San Francisco’s Chinatown. The excerpt will be followed by a panel discussion. 


Thursday, May 19th @ 6:30 p.m. via Zoom 

A virtual panel collaboration with the Asian Art Museum featuring rice farmer, Robin Koda, and wheat farmer, Mai Nguyen, in conversation with chef and cookbook author, Diep Tran about the complex role of rice in the formation of Asian Americana. 


Sunday, May 15 @ 12:00 p.m. ( Location TBD)

Join Karen Horne, SVP, Equity & Inclusion, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Director Jude Weng for a candid conversation on breaking into the industry and building your career as a storyteller in Hollywood. Learn about WBD’s Access programs and get tips on how to successfully navigate fellowship programs for writers and directors. Also, get an exclusive peek into what goes into directing prestige TV and the creative decisions that go into directing a scene.

Still from CAAMFest40 Documentaries  “Blue Island”


BLUE ISLAND, directed by Chan Tze-Woon

Generations of people have been fighting for freedom in Hong Kong. Three characters speak of their fight as Hongkongers in interviews interwoven with dramatic retellings and archival footage. This intergenerational film is an expansive tapestry that encompasses their vision and dreams for a beloved though complex place. 

BLURRING THE COLOR LINE, directed by Crystal Kwok

Asians were allowed to enroll in white schools, but was this simply an oversight? Where did the Chinese fit in the segregated South? Filmmaker Crystal Kowk raises these very questions to discover how her grandmother and her family navigated these racial tensions after opening a Chinese grocery store in the South.

DELIKADO, directed by Karl Malakunas

Palawan, a tropical island in the Philippines, is a tourist’s dream—white sand beaches, clear blue waters, and lush, diverse forests. It is also one of the most dangerous places for an environmental crusader. 

IN SEARCH OF BENGALI HARLEM, directed by Vivek Bald and Alaudin Ullah

Actor Alaudin Ullah has been typecast throughout his career, but relates more to a typical New Yorker than his Bagladeshi Muslim parents. Upon realizing he only ever saw them as stereotypes, Alaudin decides to visit the areas where his parents grew up. On the way, he unearthed a lost history in which South Asian Muslims, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans forged an extraordinary community. 

LIKE A ROLLING STONE, directed by Suzanne Joe Kai

Rolling Stone magazine started in San Francisco but made waves across American pop culture. It was shaped and catapulted into success partly by Ben Fong-Torres, who was the magazine’s first music editor. His landmark interviews, a list that consists of hall-of-famers—like Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Grateful Dead, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Wonder—shaped the way America consumed the counterculture movement of the time.

MIXED, directed by Caty Borum Chattoo and Leena Jayaswal 

It has been 50 years since Loving v. Virginia, a landmark case that ended the persecution of interracial marriages. So, what does it mean to be of mixed race in America now? Two mothers of mixed-race children look for answers. 

Still from CAAMFest40 Narratives “Make”


DAWNING, directed by Young Min Kim 

Anxiety, depression, abuse, and trauma. They are all things we don’t often talk about and rather escape. However, when Haejin returns home to comfort her heartbroken sister, she’s forced to face these demons in this psychological thriller. 

MAIKA, directed by Ham Tran

Hung, an 8-year-old boy, is hurt and lonely after the recent death of his mother and his best friend moving away. Then, he meets an alien with superpowers in the form of a young girl with purple hair. Things look up from there.

MUD WATER, directed by My-Linh Le

Set in Oakland where turfing started, MUD WATER is just as much a blend of styles in dance as it is in film. Part dance, part narrative, part mythology, this lyrical film finds interconnecting stories of a man looking for his shadow and turfers seeking to win a dance battle. 

SILENT RIVER, directed by Chris Chan Lee

Elliot checks into a motel, estranged from but hoping to reunite with his wife. Broke, broken, and in the middle of nowhere, he meets Greta, a woman who is the uncanny semblance of his wife. Who is she? Why is he pulled in? What is she hiding? 


Still from CAAMFest40 Short Programs “Coming out with the help of a Time Machine”



Phantoms of the shameful past—of the unsteady future—of things gone unsaid—manifest in different ways. Whether they come from unspoken traumas, high aspirations, community pressures, or inhibiting grief, the specters in these films represent the forces that inhibit us and the resilience that drives us forward.



OST, directed by Abhichoke Chandrasen

DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT, directed by Melissa Kong

Still from CAAMFest40 Homegrown Showcase “My Name is Lai”


The cities by the Bay have always had a reputation for eclectic personalities of all ages. From basketball to streaming, this collection of films highlights the fascinating stories of both real and fictional figures whose paths land on the Bay Area streets. When we walk amongst our local communities, we remember that these people walk with us. 

MY NAME IS LAI, directed by Lucy Saephan

AMERICANIZED, directed by Erica Eng

CRASHING WHEELS ON CONCRETE, directed by So Young Shelly Yo

LOVE & CORONA, directed by Nicole Maxali

HANNAH’S BIOGRAPHY, directed by Patricia Lee 

Still from CAAMFest40 Boundless showcase “Thank You, Come Again”


Sometimes our most intimate stories drift beyond casual understandings of time, transcending into something more. Like ocean waves, they ebb and flow through our daily lives arising in objects and spaces which remind us where we came from. These filmmakers tap into those tides of experience, pushing the boundaries on storytelling by rethinking, remixing, and removing the limits of genre and structure.

A DAY AT THE BEACH, directed by Lamesa Nashrat


THANK YOU, COME AGAIN, directed by Nirav Bhakta

HOW SMALL!, directed by Charlene Xu

EMPIRE OF MY MELODIOUS MIND, directed by Jeanette Louie

DEAR NANAY, directed by Frances Grace Mortel

THƠ, directed by Heather Muriel Nguyen and Jake Villadolid

Still from CAAMFest40 People Power Showcase “It Takes the Hood to Save the Hood”


What does it take to move two people? What about two hundred? These are stories of communities coming together to stand for their values even when official structures have abandoned them. From burial grounds in Hawaii to San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, these inspiring films remind us that it takes a village. 

PILI KA MO’O, directed by Justyn Ah Chong

IT TAKES THE HOOD TO SAVE THE HOOD, directed by Harvey Lozada

Still from CAAMFest40 New Journeys showcase “Elvis of Laos”


Caring for those around us can demand we break out of the habitual to meet the moment. Whether it be fallen comrades, grandchildren, neighbors, or themselves, these characters confront their challenges with strength that can only be acquired through years of experience. Surviving and at times, thriving, these films remind us that there are always new journeys in our lives.

KA HO’I: THE RETURN, directed by Mitchel Viernes

ELVIS OF LAOS, directed by Van Ditthavong

ZONA, directed by Masami Kawai

HANNAH’S BIOGRAPHY, directed by Patricia Lee 


At decisive moments in our lives, secret human incongruities bubble to the surface. These narratives profile characters facing those crossroads where they must choose who they really are. Whether it be in a declining ballroom dance studio or a tumultuous Eid party, we are reminded of the excitement, fear, sadness, and joy that come with ambition and expectations. 

CONGRATULATIONS (MABROOK), directed by Asad Farooqui

LUCKY FISH, directed by Emily May Jampel

BUS GIRL, directed by Jessica Henwick

ONLY THE MOON STANDS STILL, directed by Johnson Cheng

THE RETURN, directed by Hena Ashraf

ALL I WANT IS EVERYTHING, directed by Alexandra Cuerdo 



While we’ve seen the rise of anti-Asian racism, we’ve also seen the rise of solidarity efforts within Asian American communities, with Asian-Black solidarity movements, and with other BIPOC communities. Here are seven documentary shorts that reflect this moment in time as our community grapples with grief and how to rebuild our lives to make room for more joy and hope. This is a co-production with A-DOC and WORLD Channel. 

CROSSROADS, Directed by Sarita Khurana

IN LIVING MEMORY, Directed by Quyên Nguyen-Le

MALDITAS, Directed by Bree Nieves

RECORDING FOR DODIE, Directed by Frances Rubio

THE LOOKOUT, Directed by J.P. Dobrin

ON ALL FRONTS, Directed by Joua Lee Grande

MY CHINATOWN, WITH ALOHA, Directed by Kimberlee Bassford 


General admission tickets for virtual screenings and panels range from complimentary to $14. Special presentations range from $20 – $65. For more information, visit the box ticketing information page at: 


COVID Safety

CAAMFest will be taking guidance from local and federal safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID. For in-person events, CAAMFest requires proof of vaccination and will be checking guests upon arrival. Guests may also be required to mask while indoors. Please check for the most up-to-date details.


Thanks to Our Supporters!

CAAMFest40 is made possible with lead support from Presenting Sponsors Comcast Xfinity and Amazon. Additional support is provided by the Asian Art Museum; Bloomberg; Meta; Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, San Francisco; AARP; Motion Picture Association; Verizon; NBCUniversal; Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc.; Pacific Islanders in Communications; San Francisco Symphony; The Gotham; Viki Rakuten; Film SF; Kaiser Permanente; POV; and America ReFramed. Special thanks to the following institutional funders and government agencies: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Asian Pacific Fund, Jessie Cheng Charitable Foundation, and APA Heritage Foundation. Thank you also to the following media supporters: KQED, KTSF, KTVU, SF/Arts, and AsAmNews.


Check our blog again soon, as we will be releasing ticketing details, as well as interviews with filmmakers and other CAAMFest40 exciting content!