CAAM Fest Mixes Film, Music and Theater for its 36th Edition

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HP Mendoza's CAAM Fest film 'Bitter Melon' is a dark, dark comedy about a family intervention that ends badly (Courtesy HP Mendoza)

CAAMFest, the film festival hosted by the Center for Asian American Media, is broadening its offerings this year beyond films to include music and theater performances.

The opening night film is An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Story, Dianne Fukami's documentary about former Commerce and Transportation Secretary, Congressman and Mayor of San Jose. He's a second generation Japanese American who I used to interview a lot; a man who was locked up with his family in an internment camp during World War II, but could also make you believe in the power of government to do good.

Secretary and former Congressman and former San Jose Mayor is the subject of a documentary at CAAM Film Fest
Secretary and former Congressman and former San Jose Mayor is the subject of a documentary at CAAM Film Fest (Courtesy of CAAMFest)

Given the recent headlines about travel bans and discrimination, Fukami says her film couldn't come at a better time.

"You know, this is a cautionary tale. As a Japanese American, I think we need to be living reminders of what can happen when civil liberties are violated," Fukami says.


Asian action film star Pei-Pei Cheng is a featured guest at CAAMFest, and Pinay rapper Ruby Ibarra will get to talk about her directorial debut on the music video for her song Us, which features a crowd-sourced, all-Pinay cast of 200. The festival will also host the world premiere of Bitter Melon, a black comedy by H.P. Mendoza (Colma: the Musical) that's about homophobia, domestic violence, and toxic masculinity in a Filipino family, and was shot in the Bay Area.

There's also a concert featuring Bay Area acts Lyrics Born and Dengue Fever at the Starline Social Club in Oakland.

The festival closes with Aunt Lily's Flower Book, a live performance by storyteller Brenda Wong Aoki and her husband Mark Izu, who plays the bass and the sho, a Japanese reed instrument. The play is about the impact on both their family’s of anti-Asian racism. I first did a story on Mark and Brenda more than 30 years ago, and they’re still making wonderful theater.

CAAMFest runs May 10 through May 24 at the Castro, the Kabuki, and other theaters around San Francisco. Details here.