Announcing the CAAMFest 2024 Award Winners

Photo Credit: Christine Jade (L to R: Catherine T. Nguyen, Thuy Tran, Delaney Holton, Judy Song)
Congratulations to These Films as We Reflect on 11 Days of Asian American Storytelling

We celebrated a successful return of CAAMFest 2024, with more than 6,000 people in attendance and 11 days of expanded programming for film, food, and music across San Francisco and Oakland. CAAMFest presented 38 programs at 10 different venues. This year’s festival also showcased a newly expanded Industry Hub and Filmmaker Summit, bringing together over 430 attendees including filmmakers and industry professionals. 

“It has been so invigorating to experience the multitude of Asian and Asian American stories seen on screen, nourished across dinner tables, and danced into existence at our concert garden,” says Festival and Exhibitions Director, Thúy Tran. “Our stories are powerful, resonant, and timely, expanding our capacities to feel and hold each other in community.” 

The festival brought the community together to celebrate and witness the power of storytelling from the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. 





Jury members include: Manijeh Fata, Executive Director of Film SF; Brian Hu, Artistic Director of Pacific Arts Movement, presenter of the San Diego Asian Film Festival; Kim Arteche, co-Executive Director of the Berkeley Art Center

Winner: Girls Will Be Girls, directed by Shuchi Talati

Jury Statement: As a debut feature, the jury commends the masterful crafting of the emotional journey we embark on with 16-year old Mira. With strong performances by each actor, Girls Will Be Girls takes us through an evolution of relationships, with strong attention to how each character navigates romantic and familial intimacy, and strong attention to how each relationship impacts another. This film models a development of agency for Mira’s young character that is powerful, refreshing, and poignant. The jury also applauds the film’s tender, normalized attention to the exploration of sexuality. Talati’s and her team’s work asks the audience to consider how empathy operates, and how our interwoven relationships teach us about ourselves and each other.



Jury members include: Sahar Driver, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Color Congress; Sachi Cunningham, award winning documentary filmmaker and Associate Professor of Multimedia Journalism at SFSU; Fay Darmawi, Founder and Executive Director of the SF Urban Film Fest

Photo Credit: Justin Chu

Winner: Nobuko Miyamoto: A Song in Movement, directed by Quyên Nguyen-Le and Tadashi Nakamura

Jury Statement: Nobuko Miyamoto: A Song in Movement by Quyên Nguyen-Le and Tadashi Nakamura is the untold story of a very important living community activist who embodies history in the present moment. She’s a fully realized intersectional artist who has dedicated her artistry to community, bridge building, and the fight for justice. This film shows all of her multitudes coming together for the first time. We believe this story offers her life, her career, and her commitment to the community the gravitas they deserve. It illustrates the important role film plays in connecting the dots between history, culture, and the personal and yet makes it universal. At this time in history, we believe a story about coming together across racial, ethnic, and intergenerational differences is incredibly powerful and important.



The Loni Ding Award for Social Justice Documentary recognizes the film and filmmaker that most reflect the passions of the pioneering independent filmmaker Loni Ding. Ding devoted her life to advocacy and played a key role in the founding of several public media organizations, including CAAM.

The Loni Ding selection members this year included CAAM staff who have worked with Loni, including jury members: Stephen Gong, Executive Director, Don Young, Director of Programs, and Sapana Sakya, Talent Development & Special Projects Director. 

Winner: Unpacking Immigration, directed by Harleen Kaur Bal

Jury Statement: We were moved by the film’s focus on an undertold story featuring a Sikh elder who spoke with vulnerability about his experiences, his current life and community in the US. We also appreciate witnessing the multi-racial immigrant organizing in a small town Livingston meat packing plant, a place that is rarely highlighted in mainstream media. Congratulations to Harleen and all the filmmakers and we look forward to seeing your work in the years to come. 


AT&T InspirASIAN Award

This award recognizes 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. One award is presented to an undergraduate student, and a second award is presented to a graduate student.

Jury members include: The InspirASIAN team, a nonprofit and AT&T Employee Group.


Undergraduate Winner: White Butterfly, directed by Catherine Nguyen

A return to Vietnam offers a Vietnamese American daughter a portal into her late mother’s Hau Dong ritual practice.


Graduate Winner: Unpacking Immigration, directed by Harleen Kaur Bal

A Punjabi Sikh meatpacking community in California’s Central Valley reflects on migration, labor, and belonging.



The CAAMFest AARP Audience Award gives members of our audience the honor of selecting their favorite film of the Festival.

Documentary Feature Winner: 36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime, directed by Tarek Albaba

What started on February 10, 2015, with the death of three young, innocent Muslim American students, launched a four-year quest for justice.


Documentary Feature Winner: Nobuko Miyamoto: A Song in Movement, directed by Quyen Nguyen-Le and Tadashi Nakamura

Through rare archival footage, Nobuko Miyamoto’s life is an unfolding sonnet of a multi disciplined artist raised in the civil rights era, and the places, people, and events that cultivated a life-long art practice rooted in activism.


Narrative Feature Winner: The Lyricist Wannabe, directed by Norris Wong

Amidst setbacks and betrayals, an aspiring lyricist navigates a tumultuous journey from school talent shows to the pop music industry, finding solace and purpose in her unyielding passion for music. This screening was part of the Hong Kong Cinema Showcase, made possible with support from the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in San Francisco. 



Opening Night Film: Admissions Granted, directed by Hao Wu and Miao Wang

CAAMFest 2024 opened with Admissions Granted, a timely and intimate look into the key players involved in the Supreme Court decision against affirmative action on both sides of the argument. Over 750 attendees joined the screening at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, followed by an insightful Q&A with directors Hao Wu and Miao Wang, film subjects Michael Wang and Sally Chen, moderated by Festival Director Thúy Tran and Jen Nguyen of the Stupski Foundation. This screening was made possible with support from Nissan and the Stupski Foundation. 


Opening Night Gala

Opening Night Gala returned to the Asian Art Museum featuring music by DJ Tigermom Toy, aka Allyson Toy. The night wasn’t complete without tasty eats by Sitha’s Khmer Kitchen, Oramasama Dumplings, Batik and Baker, Mama Lamees, Year of the Snake, Grand Opening, and Socola. Attendees danced the night away while having access to observe some of the exhibits showing, including Phoenix Kingdoms: The Last Splendor of China’s Bronze Age. They also enjoyed the East West Bank Art Terrace: the Museum’s newly opened, 7,500-square-foot outdoor rooftop venue. This program was made possible with support from the Asian Art Museum and Nissan. 


Centerpiece Documentary: Q, directed by Jude Chehab

An intimate and haunting portrayal of a quest for love and acceptance at any cost, Q depicts the influences of a clandestine matriarchal religious order in Lebanon on three generations of women in the Chehab family. Filmmaker Jude Chehab (2020 CAAM Fellow) potently documents the unspoken ties and consequences of loyalty that have bonded her mother, grandmother, and herself to the mysterious organization. This screening at SFMOMA was followed by a conversation with director Jude Chehab and her mother and film subject Hiba Khodr, moderated by Somayeh Nikooei of the Islamic Scholarship Fund.


Centerpiece Narrative: Girls Will Be Girls, directed by Shuchi Talati

High in the Himalayas, 16-year-old Mira discovers desire and romance. Overcome by the curious (practicing how to kiss), sticky (waxing your legs), and messy (all the feelings in every direction) parts that come with coming of age, Mira is not alone – as the film’s namesake assuredly suggests. This screening at the SFMOMA was followed by a Q&A with Filmmaker Shuchi Talati and moderated by Festival Director Thúy Tran. 


Closing Night Film: And So It Begins, directed by Ramona Diaz

CAAMFest 2024 closed with And So It Begins, a documentary chronicling the 2022 Philippine presidential election. Proudly CAAM-funded, And So It Begins highlights the collective joy of the resistance movement as it unites different sectors of society in a critical moment of time. The screening at SFMOMA was followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with the Nobel Peace Prize winning journalist Maria Ressa, and a live conversation with director Ramona Diaz moderated by Festival Director Thúy Tran. This program was made possible with support from Bloomberg, and Dave A. Liu and Lauren Wu. 



Photo Credit: Treehouse Vista Studio

Industry Hub

This year, CAAMFest successfully hosted an expanded Industry Hub and Filmmaker Summit, bringing over 430 attendees across three days of programming at San Francisco’s Four One Nine. The robust program included panel discussions, networking lunches and workshops that brought filmmakers and industry experts together in energetic, inspiring conversation.

“I am incredibly grateful to our community of filmmakers and industry partners for joining us at this year’s Filmmaker Summit and Industry Hub,” said Sapana Sakya, CAAM’s Talent Development and Special Projects Director.  “We needed this space now more than ever to feel seen, to feel heard and to feel supported. I hope that everyone who participated this year felt as energized and fortified as we did.”

CAAM’s Filmmaker Summit was made possible with support from: Comcast NBCUniversal, Asian American Documentary Network (A-Doc), Jessie Cheng Charitable Foundation, Film SF | San Francisco Film Commission, Firelight Media, ITVS, and American Documentary + WORLD.


Directions in Sound: Thao

Directions In Sound returned to the Yerba Buena Gardens with Thảo Nguyễn, better known simply as “Thao,” artist and songwriter hailing from Northern Virginia and now based in San Francisco. Thao’s genre-bending sound has flavor notes of country, folk, blues and pop yet made unique by her own style and lived experience. Opening the stage was Nikbo, a Third Culture artist and songwriter born in Morocco and raised in Malawi, Canada and Kazakhstan before settling in the Bay Area. Rocking across the stage, Thao’s voice brought the poignant and powerful lyrics to life: “I lost my city in the light of day, Thick smoke, helicopter blades. Heaven and earth have never moved so fast, You’ll never know the fear your mama has.” 


Nobuko Miyamoto: A Song in Movement, directed by Quyên Nguyen-Le and Tadashi Nakamura

A two year old in internment camp grows up to find her light on stage, in song, on film, and in the movement with other Asian American civil rights activists. Nobuko Miyamoto’s artist-self blossomed in a time where immigrants and working class people were in search of belonging in a changing America. The film highlights her ceaseless labor in the arts and commitment to community. Joined by over 250 attendees, the screening at SFMOMA was followed by a Q&A with co-directors Quyên Nguyen-Le and Tadashi Nakamura, film subject Nobuko Miyamoto, composer Derek Nakamoto and musician Juan Perez, moderated by CAAM’s Executive Director Stephen Gong. Afterwards, Nobuko Miyamoto herself gifted the audience with a live performance, filling the theater with spirit and cheers. 




Futurist Flavors: Damansara x Dabao Singapore

Two powerhouse chefs partnered in this evening of cultural connectivity: Chef Tracy Goh of Damansara and Chef Emily Lim of Dabao Singapore, who both immigrated from their respective birthplaces of Malaysia and Singapore where a complex cultural and social history is shared. They co-curated a multi-course menu with Malay, Chinese and Indian influences that became a dynamic conversation on nostalgia and nuance. This program was made possible with support from Singapore Global Network. 


Preserving Taste with Komaaj 

Chef Hanif Sadr’s multi-course family style dinner at Komaaj integrated flavors and dishes from his youth, spending his childhood summers in Northern Iran’s Caspian province. It followed the screening of director Gelareh Kiazand’s short film Preserving Taste during CAAMFest, a profile of Chef Sadr and his journey to master ancient techniques with regional ingredients, fortifying bonds with farmers, foragers, shepherds, and makers from his homeland. 


Earth Seed: A People’s Journey of Radical Hospitality

CAAMFest proudly partnered with the People’s Kitchen Collective to livestream the screening of this film at Bobby Hutton Park in Oakland. Directed by Fox Nakai, the film chronicles a pilgrimage through California from present-day Los Angeles to the Mendocino Woodlands to uplift the stories and wisdom of activists of color, artists, educators, farmers, youth and elders who are forging models for survival and a collective future.


Thanks to Our Supporters! 

CAAMFest 2024 is made possible with support from Principal Sponsor Nissan and Grand Sponsors Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco, AARP, Bloomberg, and Asian Art Museum. Additional support is provided by Comcast NBCUniversal, Motion Picture Association, WBD Access, Pacific Islanders in Communications, Rakuten Viki, Dave A. Liu and Lauren Wu, Kaiser Permanente, Film SF | San Francisco Film Commission, San Francisco Symphony, Asian American Documentary Network, Minami Tamaki LLP, Southwest Airlines, Firelight Media, ITVS, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Asian Pacific Filmmakers Experience, Singapore Global Network, SAG-AFTRA, and American Documentary + WORLD. Special thanks to the following institutional funders and government agencies: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Asian American Foundation, Bank of America, Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, Asian Pacific Fund, Robert Joseph Louie Memorial Fund, Jessie Cheng Charitable Foundation, APA Heritage Foundation, and Stupski Foundation. Thank you also to the following media supporters: BART, KQED, SF/, KTSF Channel 26, NBC Bay Area, SF Station, Nichi Bei News, and SFGovTV. For a full list of supporters and in-kind donors, visit


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