The largest showcase of new Asian and Asian American films is only days away!  Since 1982, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) has presented the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival every March, one  of the  Bay Area’s most celebrated events.  CAAM is topping it off this year with an amazing lineup of 100+ films by and about Asian and Asian Americans.   A marginalized Vietnamese American community finding its voice, classic melodramas of rage and sorrow from the Philippines, and a cell phone portrait of Tehran are among incredible films you can expect at this year’s festival.  On March 11-21, Asian and Asian American independent cinema will be on proud display across theaters in San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose.

This year is going to be the first time that I will attend the festival, and I’m convinced it’ll be a one-of-a-kind experience.  In the words of Chi-hui Yang, the Festival Direct, this year’s festival is “richly dimensional” and the “live, communal experience of it all engages the senses in ways no regular movie-going can.” Among my favorites of the festival’s programming are the cinematic short series:

Blueprints For A Generation – In a quick-changing modern world, some traditions are meant to continue while some are meant to pass.  This series reveals priceless snapshots of generations who struggle to survive today or who will disappear tomorrow.

Memory Vessels and Phantom Traces – Through a container ship’s still lives, unidentified Vietnamese propaganda films, and an Indian salt field, these three experimental films ruminate on how history is reconstructed via salvaged remnants and material traces.

Scene/Unseen – From Singapore, Queens, India, Canada, San Francisco, London and China, these stunningly bold films give voice to the quiet struggles, strengths, emotions, and thoughts of everyday life.

Take Me Anywhere, I Don’t Care –  What makes them wake up and take a different path in life? Some are transformed by situations thrust upon  them, while others deal with the unintended consequences of their own actions.

Wandering, Wondering – This set of films floats through the city like seeds from dandelions. The same kinds of meanderings are oriented within. On a bus, on a bike, these tales are of love that hides in alleys, hotel rooms, or in the anonymity of large groups. These cinematic kisses will leave you wondering  whether the story is about a moment, a secret, or love.

Two particular films about a man’s journey to his childhood home in Vietnam and a triumphant Vietnamese American community in New Orleans are must-see.  In THE FADING LIGHT, follow Nam as he resurrects memories he thought, and perhaps wished, that he had left behind. Modern-day Saigon reminds him of how far he’s traveled, even if he can’t understand the path. A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES is the empowering story of a tight-knit group in the Vietnamese American community of Versailles, New Orleans. The Versailles people, who have already suffered so much in their lifetime, turn a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance for a better future.

This year also marks CAAM’s 30th anniversary. Join CAAM in celebrating 30 years of presenting the richness and diversity of Asian American stories with a special gala event on March 15. The most renowned chefs from the Asian Chefs Association will prepare their signature dishes at the infamous Ana Mandara restaurant at the heart of San Francisco. Click here for more information.

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