There’s always been a rich tradition of feasting in Asian cultures, so it’s no surprise that when the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival changed its name to CAAMFest two years ago, it was doing so, in part, to make more room for food. Though the festival continues to remain focused on the work of Asian American and Asian filmmakers, it’s ever-expanding tastes move closer to the table with the food-themed mini-program CAAMFeast, which kicked off last week at a party featuring local dishes paired with films, cooking demos, and discussions from a roster of food celebs not the least of whom was Martin Yan of "Yan Can Cook" fame.
Many Asian American cultural luminaries come from the restaurant industry, which Anthony Lucero tackles with gusto in East Side Sushi, a family drama about an aspiring chef as she learns about life, love (of food), and the proper way to cut a Bluefin. Many of the biggest Asian directors have also tried their hand at films about cooking and eating from Tsui Hark’s The Chinese Feast to Stephen Chow’s The God of Cookery. Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast follows in that tradition, and despite its daffy title, is a pleasingly straightforward soufflé of pop comedy centered around traditional Taiwanese banquet dishes. Ang Lee’s classic family flick, Eat Drink Man Woman will also screen for its 20th anniversary.
Fans of classic Asian and Asian American cinema have plenty to chew on at this year’s CAAMFest as well. The fest serves up a special tribute to Run Run Shaw – one half of Hong Kong moguls the Shaw Brothers, who popularized the martial arts film – with a trio of classics aimed at fans of good old fashioned chop-socky. Reaching all the way back to the 1940s, the fest also spotlights a pair of classic films from the Grandview Film Company, a San Francisco-based Chinese-American production house established in 1933. Those with a taste for serious cinema in a similar vein will want to make room for Rithy Panh’s Cannes-winning documentary-in-miniature, The Missing Picture, which painstakingly stages the atrocities of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge in clay miniature. Another Cannes awardee, Anthony Chen’s autobiographical Ilo Ilo, which took home the prestigious Camera D’Or at the festival, presents a touching, personal portrait of Singaporean family life in the late 90s during the Asian financial crisis. Other film-only fest highlights include deportee/poet/rapper doc Cambodian Son, Visra Vadakan’s intriguing doc/narrative hybrid Karaoke Girl and the indie-via-India father son comedy Brahmin Bulls.
CAAMFest’s other extracurricular interest, partying (duh) also takes center stage this year, with festival concert series New Directions in Sound hosting the US debut of Vietnamese rapper Suboi, a host of lady DJs and a full night of Korean artists that blur the lines between American Indie Rock, K-pop, and British electronica. For the first time in recent history, the fest also looks to get the party started in Oakland with a co-party hosted by the Oakland Museum that doubles as the launch of the museum’s Superawesome: Art and Giant Robot exhibit, which features work by the artists who have graced the pages of that mag over its 15 year lifespan.
CAAMFest 2014 starts Thursday March 13th and runs through the 23rd at venues around the Bay. Tickets here.