Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jason goes to CAAMFest--Tuesday, March 18

I gave myself one day of rest after Cinequest, and I was back in festival mode with CAAMFest (formerly SFIAAFF, what I always called Asianfest.) It actually started on Thursday, so I missed all of the big first weekend. This seems to happen every other year or so, so hopefully next year they won't overlap. And now, over a week later, I finally have a little time to write about it.

Anyway, I was up in Japantown for two shows a week ago Tuesday (I guess that would be day 6 of the festival.)

First up was AMERICAN ARAB, a personal and political documentary by Arab-American director Usama Alshaibi. He opens with the death of his own brother--overdosed on heroin, leading to an exploration of the phenomenon of "too much freedom" in America. He then explores many other examples of the Arab American experience, from his own life and the lives of others. A woman in a hijab attacked in a grocery store. He has his own racially-motivated attack. And the more benign incidents...like the Arab-American kids asked to explain what they thought of 9/11, or just the average every day racial epithets. In a scant 60 minutes, he explores a lot of complexity of identity. Oddly, none cut through the complexity more clearly than the Arab American punk rock band, who rebel against both establishment America and Islam, forming an identity that's neither American, nor Arab, but totally individual. And that's really what everyone is looking for--to be treated as an individual. Very cool.

Then I caught the shorts program A Modern Family. Shorts about family, in all its straightforward complexity.
GRAND CANAL: Canal sailors in China, as director Johnny Ma remembers his father.
HAPPY DANCE: Experimental animated dancing toys, inspired by director Crisanta Deguzman's autistic son.
HER PRIZE: A rubber ducky, and a funny father. Very cute.
MAKATO: OR, HONESTY: The last days of director Christopher Makoto Yogi's father, as remembered by his mother and grandmother.
MALAYSIAN MEMORIES: Director Celeste Chan’s father remembers growing up in Malaysia in poverty and desperation.
MANDEVILLA: In Koreatown, a young man can hear fighting in the apartment next to him. And he struggles with what to do about it.
MEI: Memories of Hong Kong, and director Margaret To's old caretaker. A clever, partly animated short.
SWEET CORN: Corn rots on the stalks while father and son fight over the direction of the farm.

Total Running Time: 142 minutes
My Total Minutes: 358,628
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