CAAMFest, San Francisco’s iconic Asian-focused film festival, released its ambitious 2023 program Tuesday night. Aiming to continue the momentum in Asian American storytelling after Everything Everywhere All at Once won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, its 11-day program at a moment when Asian cinema has arguably never been as prominent.
“The recent Oscars was a historic night for Asian Americans,” said Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian American Media, which organizes the festival. “Asian American stories resonate with audiences.”
Formerly known as the SF International Asian American Film Festival, CAAMFest returns in mid-May to celebrate its 41st anniversary with no fewer than 55 events, including film screenings, music and dance performances, food tastings, panels and a filmmaker summit.
Cementing its longtime partnership with the government of Hong Kong to highlight Cantonese-language movies, the program also includes a number of feature films, documentaries and shorts from independent and first-time filmmakers.
But it’s CAAMfest’s opener that’s sure to draw the most attention. Joy Ride is a comedy led by Asian American actors, including the Oscar-nominated Everything Everywhere All at Once star Stephanie Hsu. Director Adele Lim was also a co-screenwriter of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, a romantic comedy set in Singapore that became a worldwide box office success.
Joy Ride tells a story of four unlikely friends who embark on a once-in-a-lifetime international adventure to China. Their wild and epic experience becomes a journey of bonding and friendship.
Gong said even though the festival picked a more mainstream movie this year as its opening, it still strives to elevate the stories that aren't typically well-supported at the box office. Last year’s opening film was a human rights-focused documentary Free Chol Soo Lee.
“I’m proud to say we will not move away from that commitment,” Gong said. “What we believe is finding the stories that are untold in other spaces and lifting them up.”
CAAMFest’s expansion into the domain of food involves events at restaurants throughout the Bay Area, including Abacá, Calabash, the Great Star Theatre and even KQED. Attendees will be able to try Jamaican and Iranian cuisine while hearing from acclaimed celebrity chefs and food critics.
“For Asian Americans, food is the way that we communicate a lot of our values, cultural connections and love and care for one another,” Gong said.
One standout of CAAMFest's musical programs is the legendary Fanny, the first all-female rock band consisting of Filipina American sisters to release a full-length album on a major label. Rapper Ruby Ibarra and newcomers Peaboo and the Catz will join the show.
The festival switched to online-only in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic before returning to a hybrid format last year. For 2023, all the programs are in-person and will take place at venues across the Bay Area, including the Castro Theatre, the Roxie, SFMOMA and Oakland’s New Parkway.
📍 Various venues in SF and Oakland
🗓️ May 11-21
Han Li can be reached at [email protected]