Monday, August 19, 2013

Phil attends CAAMFest San Jose at the Camera 3: Day Two-August 17, 2013

Welcome back to Day Two of my trip to the CAAMFest San Jose Film Festival at the Camera 3 Cinemas!! Saturday was a busy day for me! I saw four films and one shorts program, so let's get started shall we?

The first film I saw was INFINITY AND CHASHU RAMEN. Written and directed by local filmmaker Kerwin Berk, the film takes place in San Francisco's Japantown and follows two spirits: a wise but mischevious 400 year old man named Tenshi (Hiroshi Kashiwagi) and young naive woman from the 1940's named Lucy (Wendy Woo). Together, these two very different spirits help guide the lives of a dozen people in Japantown, as told in six interwoven vignettes.

This is a perfect example of the flourishing local independent movie scene here in the Bay Area. Berk really captures not only this independent spirit, but also captures the spirit of Japantown. The combination of a cleverly written script with very good acting makes this a winner in my book! The entire cast is great in the film! Both Woo and Kashiwagi play up the odd couple scenario perfectly, giving us some true laughs and sentiment. It's their on-screen chemistry that makes the film so much fun to watch. Definitely worth checking out! To learn more about the film, visit the official website at

Film number two of the day was the FUTURE'S CALLING SHORTS PROGRAM. The program consisted of Bay Area filmmakers showcasing their short films about who they are, their communties and their roots.

DISTANCE: A black and white film about a young couple facing a crisis in their relationship. A young Chinese girl's boyfriend asks her to join him as he is being relocated to Hong Kong because of his job. Told in a voiceover narrative, she explains the distance she feels not only with her boyfriend, but also within herself.
TULE LAKE: This amazing animated short takes place in the dead of winter at Tule Lake segregation camp during the Japanese-American internment of World War II. It focuses on a young mom there who leaves her family for one night, but not to escape. The film was beautifully animated by the students at the San Jose Sate University animation department and directed by Michelle Ikemoto! A visually stunning short film!
GRAVE GOODS: Directed by Leslie Tai, this documentary short tells the story of her deceased grandmother who was buried with some of her personal belongings so she could take them with her to the afterlife. Leslie examines what was left behind, and discloses personal stories about them and what they mean to her. Very touching short film!
INDIAN SUMMER: Another doc short, it's about a group of Indian children attending the Hindi Heritage Summer Camp where they learn their roots, traditions, and culture. The film was directed by Mridu Chandra.
LADY RAZORBACKS: Shot in East Palo Alto, this black and white doc focuses on a group of female Pacific Islander rugby players. The short was directed by Laura Green.
PERFORMING GIRL: Directed by Crescent Diamond, the film focuses on the life of D'Lo, a queer, transgender, Tamil Sir Lankan American, actor, artist, comedian, director, and music producer who discusses his upbringing in Lancaster, California. A truly inspiring film!

After the screening, directors Crescent Diamond, Leslie Tai, and Michelle Ikemoto participated in a Q&A session with the audience.

The third film I saw was the powerful documentary STATELESS. Directed by Emmy award winner Duc Nguyen, the film follows the lives of Vietnam War refugees who are living in the Philippines, and have been waiting for over 16 years to be granted interviews in order to come to the United States. The documentary closely examines and tells their stories of hurt, betrayal, sacrifice, and their hope of having a place to call home.

This is one of the reasons I love watching documentaries. They tell stories that I never knew existed and this is one of them. I never knew that there were still over 2,000 boat people still left from the Vietnam War. And all they want is the chance to start over here in America and to finally to not only have a home, but to be free. Nguyen's film portrays the plight of these people and we cannot help feel sympathetic to their cause! Truly an outstanding documentary (six years in the making!) and one that people should definitely see!

After the screening, Duc Nguyen participated in a Q&A with the audience. He also mentioned that he's still seeking help for the film because it is not completely finish, and you can help contribute to its fundraising. To learn more about the documentary and to make a contribution, visit the film's official website at

Film number four was the festival's centerpiece presentation (and another fantastic documentary) called GO GRANDRIDERS. This inspiring film chronicles a group of senior citizens (majority are over 80 years old) as they embark on the greatest adventure of their lives: a 13 day motorcycle tour around the island of Taiwan! As the film progresses, we get to know these people; their background, their family, and their own personal philosophies about life as they travel Taiwan, stopping at nursing homes to inspire other elders to keep on living life to its fullest!

What a wonderful film! I could not stop smiling the entire time I was watching it! It's so inspiring, so touching, and so fantastic to watch that it brought a tear to my eye! OK, it brought a lot of tears to both my eyes! The film proves that just because your old doesn't mean you have to stop living your life. Quite the contrary, it should inspire you to live life to the fullest every single day! These so-called "old people" have lived a very long life, filled with many stories and adventures. And now, in their twilight years, they have added one more to their storybook!

After the screening, director Hua Tien-Hau was there along with ten of the original Grandriders to participate in an awesome Q&A session! To see them live and in-person was so amazing! Afterward, everybody went over to the Fahrenheit Restaurant and Lounge for a reception. The film will be the very first Taiwanese documentary to be released theatrically here in the states, so I encourage you all to see this once it's released! In the meantime, please visit the film's official website at

The fifth and final film of the day was BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. The film follows best friends Harriet (Brea Grant) and Reba (Vera Miao) as they embark on a road trip from LA to Austin, Texas. At the exact same time, LA and three other cites are wiped off the face of the earth from a nuclear  attack. The apocalypse has just been ushered in, forcing both Harriet and Reba to re-examine their lives and their beloved friendship.

This film caught me off by surprise! It features a terrific script, solid acting, awesome directing, and as a bonus, it features one helluva curve ball: a female buddy road trip story wrapped around an apocalyptic disaster story! Genius! Absolutely genius! Also adding more bonus points, the film was female made. Grant directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Miao, who was also one of the producers along with Stacey Storey, a former Miss Alaska USA turned filmmaker who also has her production company called Storeyteller Films. And speaking of film, the movie was shot on super 16mm film print! How cool is that? A true gem of a film! Check out the movie's official website at

What a great day of film watching! Six screenings in two days, and there's still more to see on Sunday! To learn more about Center for Asian American Media and the film festival, and to make donations, please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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