Out & about in Asian American film

by David Lamble

Scene from director Nick Neon's club-kid spoof "Zero One." Photo: Courtesy CAAMFest
Scene from director Nick Neon's club-kid spoof "Zero One." Photo: Courtesy CAAMFest  

The 37th edition of CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, includes two LGBTQ shorts programs and a bevy of narrative features and docs on subjects of interest to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. CAAMFest 2019 runs May 9-19 at venues throughout San Francisco and Oakland: the Castro, Roxie, Kabuki, New People, Asian Art Museum, SF Public Library Main Branch, Waverly Place, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, OMCA and Piedmont Theatre.

"Chinatown Rising" Harry & Josh Chuck take a documentary trip through a half-century of activism in San Francisco's vibrant Chinatown. (Castro, 5/9; Opening Night Gala: AAM)

"Yellow Rose" (US, Philippines) Diane Paragas directs the story of aspiring Texan country singer Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada). Directorial debut, Filipino American musical delight. (Kabuki, 5/11; Piedmont, 5/16)

"When We Walk" Award-winning TV director Jason DaSilva continues his series of films on his struggles with multiple sclerosis (MS). This episode deals with his adventures as a new parent. (Kabuki, 5/12; Piedmont, 5/18)


Scene from director Kevin Yees About a Short Film. Photo: Courtesy CAAMFest  

"Geographies of Kinship" Deann Borshay Liem tells stories of Koreans who have been adopted by American families. (Roxie, 5/19)

"The Joy Luck Club" (1993) Amy Tan's bestselling novel, about the travails of a quartet of Chinese-born women and their assimilated American daughters, is brought to the screen by Wayne Wang with a diverse cast: Victor Wong, Lisa Lu, 80s brat-pack star Andrew McCarthy. (Waverly, free, 5/18)

"The Dragon Painter" (1919) William Worthington directed one of the first Asian American films. This silent feature, starring Sessue Hayakawa, is an example of the visual qualities that early-film fans treasure. With live music score composed by Japanese American singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura. (New People, 5/11)

"Leitis in Waiting" (2017) Three gifted filmmakers — Joe Wilson, Dean Hammer & Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu — present a thought-provoking and moving exploration of Christian-inspired persecution of "Leitis," a class of individuals on the South Pacific island of Tonga exploring gender fluidity. The filmmakers make a strong case for the conclusion that the Leitis were forced into domestic servitude to grease the wheels for the island nation's pivotal tourist industry. (OMCA, 5/17)

"In This Family" (2018) Director Drama del Rosario dramatizes his at first painful, then funny experience of coming out in a conservative Catholic Filipino family. Using family photos and a witty direct address to the camera, del Rosario describes how his once rabidly homophobic dad had a startling change of heart, an act of grace that also benefited his lesbian sister. ("Flip the Script" shorts program, Kabuki, 5/11)

"Sworded Love" (2018) American shorts director Tina Takemoto creates a diverting collage of fractured images. ("Follow Me" shorts program, Kabuki, 5/12)


Scene from directors Becca Park & Jun Shimizus Speak Easy, B. Photo: Courtesy CAAMFest  

"Zero One" (2018) Nick Neon directs a deft club-kid spoof about a guy whose buddy swears they should get "Great Gatsby" drunk one night. When confronted with a cute white dude who's "touching his junk" in the club's men's room, our hero James protests, "I'm not giving you a blowjob in here!" ("Out/Here" shorts program, Kabuki, 5/13)

"About a Short Film" (2018) Kevin Yee has great fun spoofing "the plight of the Gay Asian Musical Comedian from Canada (legally)." A pal notes, "I know you've been doing unsuccessful YouTube videos for 10 years." It's a great showcase for the sort of talent that could command a network sitcom. ("Out/Here" shorts program, Kabuki, 5/13)

"Speak Easy, B" (2018) Directors Becca Park & Jun Shimizu serve up a clever 14-minute collage that begins and ends on a couch. A young lesbian is lashing out over her breakup with a blonde female lover. (Warning: a tricky segment involving projectile vomiting may not be everyone's cup of tea.) ("Out/Here" shorts program, Kabuki, 5/13)

"Bed & Breakfast" (2018) Anna Mikami directs a comic short concerning two couples (one hetero, one lesbian) who collide at one of those tasteful bed-and-breakfast establishments that can shame anyone from any background. ("Out/Here" shorts program, Kabuki, 5/13)


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