CAAMFest is the coolest film festival you've maybe never heard of. I've been intimately aware of CAAMFest since about 2016 or so. Like a lot of events requiring humans to be together in close proximity, CAAM was forced into a hiatus during the early years of COVID. The fact that the 10-day festival is back is testament to both where we are in the pandemic and the enduring spirit of this four-decade-old slate of movies showcasing AAPI filmmakers, crewmembers, actors, and writers. If you're saying "wow" right now, welcome to the club.
CAAMFest 2023 did everything but disappoint, at least as far as the events I was fortunate enough to attend. I joined Erin and Producer Char back in April at CAAM's launch party (side note: it was a total trip to be inside Victory Hall, the space formerly—and by "formerly," I mean at least 20 years ago—occupied by 330 Ritch and its "Pop Scene" weekly dance parties). At the launch party, I was immediately struck that night by the enthusiasm on display, mostly from CAAM Festival and Exhibitions Director Thúy Trần (get to know Thúy over on Bitch Talk Podcast) and Programs Associate Jess Ju. Thúy and Jess presented the list of 55+ film, music, and food events that comprised this year's CAAMFest, and I was hooked.
Here's a list of movies I signed up for as soon as I could:
Benkyodo: The Last Manju Shop in J-Town
Jeanette Lee vs.
Fanny: The Right to Rock
Photo by Wally Gobetz
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Hi there! How are you? I'm good. I've been good. Like, really good. Let me go back a little bit ...
Starting around January this year, a spark ignited somewhere in my psyche. Looking back, I think it was caused by several factors. Playing right into it was an opportunity to see so many bands I discovered in the '90s, bands that truly changed my life. I also had the chance to reconnect with folks from my life whom I hadn't seen in 20 or 30 years, people I'd lived with back in my formative days. The temptation to revel in nostalgia was strong, and we definitely acted upon it.
Dwelling in the past is as natural as anything else our brains do regularly. I found myself transported back to "simpler times," in both my life and the world around me.
But almost as soon as I realized what was happening, a second trigger went off—"don't get caught up in the past, Jeff," it insisted. "Take inspiration from this and use it to shape your present and your future." Damn, whatever part of me is speaking to me, you're right!
"What does this have to do with San Francisco?" you might ask. Good question! Like a lot of you, I've been thinking about what our city can be in this oh-so-obvious point of inflection. I've been here nearly 23 years, and my memories of the days of my arrival are almost all fond. I remember public art everywhere ... house parties ... art parties ... $3 burritos ... more fog in the avenues ... an upstart progressive campaign that almost unseated an heir apparent to the Mayor's Office ... the list goes on and on.
Today, as I ponder what I want this city to be moving forward, I am tempted to think back to those simpler times, the early aughts. But it would be a grave mistake to stay there too long. Times change, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
All this to say that these are some of the louder internal conversations I've been having lately. And it relates to something we've got in store for y'all.
Starting this August, after we've wrapped up Season 5 and got some much-needed rest and travel under our belts, we're hosting an art show at Mini Bar on Divisadero. We're still working on the exact name of the show, but the theme is: Rebirth.
For me, thinking about San Francisco and rebirth means tapping into the better elements of the past and applying what we've learned to help shape our vision of the future. To me, a city that uplifts all its residents, that celebrates the arts and all the diverse cultures and histories it comprises, that's a city reborn for the better.
We'll have many more details about our Mini Bar show over the coming weeks and months. But we wanna know from you: What do you imagine a renaissance in San Francisco to look like?
That's it for now. Thanks as always for reading and looking forward to your answers.
Actors, crew, and directors of Home Is a Hotel. Photography by Jeff Hunt
I've lived in San Francisco for 23 years and seen movies at the SFFilm Festival many times. But I've never "covered" the festival as press. At Erin's urging, this year, I applied for press credentials ... and SFFilm obliged. Amazing!
The schedule for this festival, which was celebrating its 66th year, was dizzying, to say the least. I leafed through and found a handful of films that fit the following criteria:
I ended up with access to the following movies, whether by at-home screener link or tickets to a theater: