CAAMFest Brings Asian American Storytelling to the Bay Area

With our current fractious political environment, the Executive Director for the Center for Asian American Media Steven Gong says festivals like CAAMFest offer the hope of people embracing otherness through food, music and movies.

“They have the power to bridge and unite disparate communities,” Gong said about the festival, the largest of its kind in the country. This year CAAMFest will present 123 movies from all over the world, including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United States, and Vietnam.

The festival kicks off on March 10 at the Castro Theatre with Tyrus, a documentary about the life of the 105-year-old painter, muralist, ceramicist, and designer Tyrus Wong, whose sketches caught the eye of Walt Disney and became the guide for Bambi's background artists.

The inspiring story tracing Wong’s journey from China with his father to Angel Island Immigration Station as a nine‐year‐old to finding his own style and voice with his art is perfect to start the festival, according to festival director Masashi Niwano. And his presence at the screening and party afterwards at the Asian Art Museum, which is celebrating its 50-year anniversary, makes it more meaningful, Niwano says.

“The opening night movie is important because it sets the tone for the whole festival,” Nawano said. “We are stunned and amazed that Tyrus and his family will be at the gala, which will feature a lost painting by Tyrus Wong.”

The festival offers two centerpiece films- one by Mabel Cheung, A Tale of Three Cities, about Hong Kong during the 1930s and '40s, telling the real-life story of Jackie Chan’s parents, as well as Bay Area filmmaker Michael Siv’s Daze of Justice, following Khmer Rouge survivors from the US to Cambodia.

The closing night movie, Right Footed, tells the story of Filipina American Jessica Cox, a disability rights activist and armless airplane pilot.

The festival has expanded beyond Japantown and Chinatown this year to the Mission, with venues including the Alamo Drafthouse at New Mission and the Grey Area Foundation for the Arts. Nawano says he’s particularly excited to have Netflix’s Master of None’s co-creator Alan Yang and cast member Kelvin Yu at the Gray Area talking about their experiences in the industry.

In addition to movies and TV, Directions in Sound returns with a Korean showcase featuring Big Phony and Heo.

CAAMFest, March 10-20, various venues in San Francisco and Oakland, Ticket prices vary,

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