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Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong Films focus at CAAMFest 2021

CAAMFest 2021, the spring festival showcase of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), presents many Chinese and Chinese diaspora works. From the Opening Night drive-in screening of director Debbie Lum's TRY HARDER! at Fort Mason Flix on Thursday, May 13 and the Hong Kong Cinema Showcase drive-in on Saturday, May 15 to virtual and on-demand events, the festival is proud to celebrate the dynamism of the Chinese and Chinese diaspora experience. Several films from 2021 include representation from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

OPENING NIGHT
TRY HARDER!, directed by Debbie Lum
Thursday, May 13, 6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. at FORT MASON FLIX
At San Francisco's Lowell High School—where cool kids are nerds, nearly everyone has an amazing talent, and the majority of the student body is Asian American—the things that usually make a person stand out can feel not good enough, even commonplace.

SPOTLIGHT: EVAN JACKSON LEONG
CENTERPIECE PRESENTATION, NARRATIVE
SNAKEHEAD, directed by Evan Jackson Leong

Saturday, May 22, 7:00 p.m. PDT on CAAMFest.com
In this historical piece, we are transported to New York's Chinatown where Sister Tse (Shuya Chang) arrives by a snakehead, a human smuggler. There she fights to stay alive and in time she goes from surviving to thriving. Her morals are pushed to the limit and it's up to her where her story goes.

LINSANITY, directed by Evan Jackson Leong One of the most popular CAAMFest Opening Nights of all time, LINSANITY is the eye-opening and award-winning documentary about the rise of legendary basketball player, Jeremy Lin. The film traces Lin's life from Palo Alto to his professional start with the NBA's New York Knicks.

Taipei Suicide Story (2020) | MUBI

DIRECT TO TAIWAN
TAIPEI SUICIDE STORY, directed by KEFF At a Taipei hotel with a niche market catering to people who want to end their lives discreetly, a bored front desk clerk defies advice and strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the guests.
RADIO! READY! OH!, directed by Hong Zipeng On a serendipitous New Year's Eve, a young interviewee lands a position at a company by mistake and encounters a series of quirky events.
SWINGIN', directed by Shang-Sing Guo (DIRECT TO TAIWAN Shorts Program) When sixth-grader boy Qiu is bullied in school for having gay dads, his stepfather Howard, a flamboyant Jazz trumpet player, must confront his own nightmares of childhood bullying before he can provide his son a feeling of security.
KUROSHIO CURRENT, directed by Kun-Yu Lai (DIRECT TO TAIWAN Shorts Program) A man searches for the amulet his mother gave him before he left for America.
DANNY, DANNY directed by Huan Cheng (SELF | PORTRAIT Shorts Program) Taiwanese born, local filmmaker Huan Cheng's film follows the solitary journey of one woman as she navigates between isolation and intimacy in her daily struggle to find herself.
HIGH STRUNG, directed by Melissa Kan (SHAKE IT OFF Shorts Program) Taiwanese American filmmaker Melissa Kan brilliantly and emotionally captures the pressures of growing up and the need to succeed.
DRIVE ALL NIGHT directed by Peter Hsieh Local Taiwanese American director Peter Hsieh tells the story of taxi driver Dave, who gets the ride of his life when Cara jumps into his cab and takes him on a wild journey through the night.

HONG KONG CINEMA SHOWCASE
THE WAY WE KEEP DANCING, directed by Adam Wong
Saturday, May 15, 9:15 p.m. at FORT MASON FLIX
As neighborhoods change in the Kowloon Industrial District in Hong Kong, a small community of artists find themselves struggling with how to preserve their culture and way of life.
HAPPY TOGETHER, directed by Wong Kar-Wai
Saturday, May 15, 6:30 p.m. at FORT MASON FLIX
In this seminal and gorgeous film, Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) are lovers who fight to keep their relationship together.
BETTER DAYS, directed by Derek Tsang The film explores a high school in Hong Kong and a trouble incident that occurs.
I STILL REMEMBER, directed by Lik Ho P.E. Teacher Mr. Wong inspires his students by committing to run his first 10K race.
KEEP ROLLING, directed by Man Lim-chung In Man Lim-chung's directorial debut, we go behind the scenes with one of Hong Kong's most influential Auteurs, Ann Hui.

Other films with Chinese or diaspora representation include:
BUT YOU'RE NOT BLACK, directed by Danielle Ayow (CROSSCURRENTS Shorts Program) A Chinese-Caribbean-Canadian woman, driven by people's inability to separate her skin colour from her culture, tries to own the Trinidadian identity she knows should feel like hers.
COVID AND WHO I AM NOW, directed by Diana Dai (LIFE, INTERRUPTED Shorts Program) In this powerful and emotional short documentary, Mary, a young Chinese Canadian medical student is attacked during the Covid-19 pandemic.
CHINATOWN PRETTY, directed by Roy Chan (HE(ART)BEATS Shorts Program) In this film,
CCDC partners with artists Andria Lo and Valerie Luu to showcase their Chinatown Pretty project honoring local seniors, their fashion choices, and their independent lives.
CITRIC ACID, directed by Elenie Chung (HE(ART)BEATS Shorts Program) In this powerful and dream-like film, Aino and Yu Xing are two best friends and working fine artists.
DRIVING WITH THE TOP DOWN, directed by Edward Gunawan (OUT/HERE Shorts Program) A touching film by filmmaker Edward Gunawan explores his family's intergenerational trauma and intersectional struggles as a queer Chinese Indonesian in this intimately personal video essay.
DUET, directed by Shae Xu (OUT/HERE Shorts Program) In this sensual and dream-like film, an unspoken romance inevitably resurfaces when a high school music teacher meets an old colleague again and decides to perform together for the first time as piano duet partners after they've long since drifted apart from each other.
IN THE SAME BREATH directed by Nanfu Wang More than one year since the world's sudden screeching to an unsteady halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nanfu Wang's In The Same Breath delves deep into the earliest days of the coronavirus' spread.
WUHAN WUHAN, directed by Yung Chang Award-winning filmmaker Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) and a group of intrepid videographers were able to document life at the epicenter of COVID-19, including portraits of a couple expecting a baby, quarantined families in a byzantine shelter, dedicated medical workers, and a psychologist facing her own family crisis while helping patients with the unknown threat.
YUAN YUAN AND THE HOLLOW MONSTER, directed by Catherine Chen (SHAKE IT OFF Shorts Program) Eight-year-old Yuan Yuan is determined to protect her newest pet, a tiny turtle named Lucy, at all costs. Even if it means chasing down a massive hurricane called the Hollow Monster (aka Hurricane Katrina).
HAVE YOU EATEN?, directed by Lina Li While quarantining at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, filmmaker Lina Li documents her mother preparing a meal, while the two converse about cultural differences and misunderstandings.
THE LEAF directed by William J. Zang A personal, poetic, documentary film about Director Will J. Zang's experience as both a filmmaker and a gay immigrant during this pandemic.
LET'S EAT, directed by Dixon Wong (San Francisco-based Anamon Studios) As a young woman prepares a meal, she reflects back about both the happy and bitter memories with her mother and the unconditional love they have for each other in the meals they share.
LUNAR: THE JEWISH-ASIAN FILM PROJECT EP. 1: THE TASTE OF CONNECTION, directed by Jared Chiang-Zeizel, Jenni Rudolph (AT THE DINNER TABLE Shorts Program) In the first episode of a docuseries exploring the stories of Asian American Jews, several of them discuss examining their identity through memories, histories, and fusion possibilities of food from both sides of their heritages.
RADICAL CARE: THE AUNTIE SEWING SQUAD directed by Valerie Soe(LIFE, INTERRUPTED Shorts Program) Valerie Soe is back with a powerful documentary that shines a light on the Auntie Sewing Squad, a group of mostly women of color volunteers who came together following the U.S. government's botched response to the COVID-19 crisis.
TRACE, directed by Wesley Chan (SHAKE IT OFF Shorts Program) TRACE is a wild, sci-fi action film brought by creative minds at Wong Fu Productions and OSU Films.
PHOENIX BAKERY: SWEETS FOR THE SWEET, directed by Janet Chen (AT THE DINNER TABLE Shorts Program) As the Los Angeles Chinatown's Phoenix Bakery celebrates its 80th anniversary, the Chan family reflects back on its past, while contemplating its future.

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About the author

Grace Han

In a wave of movie-like serendipity revolving around movies, I transitioned from studying early Italian Renaissance frescoes to contemporary cinema. I prefer to cover animated film, Korean film, and first features (especially women directors). Hit me up with your best movie recs on Twitter @gracehahahan !

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