CAAM Fest presents latest in Asian and Asian American film to S.F.

The Land of Hope. (Kibo No Kuni). photo courtesy of Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

The Land of Hope. (Kibo No Kuni). photo courtesy of Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

The annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, sponsored by the Center for Asian American Media (formerly NAATA), has been renamed CAAMFest. From Thursday, March 14 to Sunday, March 24, 2013, CAAMFest will showcase the best in Asian American creative expression in film, music, food and digital media at numerous venues in San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif.

Noteworthy films include the festival opener, “Linsanity.” When basketball sensation Jeremy Lin burst upon the scene as the “ultimate underdog” with a game-winning streak for the New York Knicks in February of 2012, director Evan Jackson Leong had already been filming him for years. The San Francisco-born Leong spotted the potential for a great documentary when Lin was still at Harvard University. His early interest established unparalleled access to Lin, his family and mentors. By interweaving personal interviews and candid scenes with home movies and electrifying game footage, Leong has created an engaging study of Asian American character, challenges and triumphs — truly a must for basketball-playing Asian American families.

How do young-adult siblings cope when their imperfect and difficult dad dies suddenly? “Dead Dad” traces the bittersweet emotional journey of the Sawtelle family. Made on a shoestring budget with Kickstarter funding, the authentic dialog and naturalistic performances turn the uneven camerawork into a positive — with the spontaneous intimacy of iPhone videos. Although none of the characters are Japanese American, the family surname resonates with Japanese American memories, and the film was directed and co-produced by Japanese American Ken J. Adachi. Adachi co-wrote the script with Kyle Arrington, who plays Russell, a recently unemployed drummer dealing with the loss of his father and a reunion with his siblings. Lucas Kwan Peterson plays his older brother, a buttoned-down hapa adoptee, and Jenni Melear is the volatile younger sister. With genuine affection and dry, low-key humor, the trio gradually come to terms with the departed and with their own past and present.

“Land of Hope (Kibo No Kuni)” brings emotional reality to the 2011 tsunami by dramatizing the fates of two families in fictional Nagashima Prefecture after a tsunami triggers an explosion at their local power plant. The characters face “an invisible enemy” not only in the radiation that forces them from their homes and threatens their unborn children, but in corporate and governmental denial, in their own fears and in the prejudices of the neighborhoods where they relocate. The film mourns the erosion of traditional lifestyles and ponders an uncertain future that’s best approached “ippo, ippo” — one step at a time. Writer/director Sion

Sono established his career by exploring mass suicide, kinky photography and serial killers, but since the Fukushima disaster, his focus has been subtler, but alas, more real.

The “On Bodies” shorts program features “Tule Lake,” a poignantly beautiful animated short about a young mother who steals out of an incarceration camp barracks and risks her life for the sake of her children. The six-minute film was conceived and directed by Michelle Ikemoto, based on a true story about her grandmother, Sakae Ikemoto. Ikemoto’s storyboards became a class project for a close-knit team of animation and illustration students that has reaped several Bay Award awards and a prestigious Annie nomination. Jimi Yamaichi, a former Tule Lake inmate, and the Japanese American Museum of San Jose helped ensure the film’s visual authenticity.

“On Bodies” also includes “No Longer There,” directed by Nobuyuki Miyake. In a lyrical meditation on how people connect and what has lasting value, a quiet dental technician weaves a rich fantasy life about the people for whom he creates new dentures.

The “Emotional Eaters” shorts program features “Craftsman,” a two-minute film about a master Japanese knife sharpener, and “Persimmon,” a poetic mediation on life and death.

On a lighter note, CAAMFest spotlights “Astro Boy: The Movie,” the beloved icon of manga, anime and video games by pairing the 2009 film, a feature-length 3D animation featuring the voices of Nicholas Cage and Charlize Theron, with an exhibition at the Superfrog Gallery in San Francisco’s Japantown.

Linsanity (USA) Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco, $35 film only/$55 film and party.

Dead Dad (USA) Saturday, March 16, 6:40 p.m., New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown; Tuesday, March 19, 6:15 p.m., Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown; Sunday, March 24, 12:30 p.m., New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown.

Land of Hope (Kibo No Kuni) (Japan) Saturday, March 16, 9:40 p.m., Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Thursday, March 21, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, Calif.

“On Bodies” shorts program, featuring Tule Lake (6:25 min, USA) and No Longer There, directed by Nobuyuki Miyake (23 min., Japan 2012): Saturday, March 16, 3 p.m., Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Tuesday, March 19, 6:30 p.m. New People Cinema.

“Emotional Eaters” shorts program, featuring Craftsman (2 min., USA) and Persimmon (20 min., Japan): Friday, March 15, 5 p.m., Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Saturday, March 23, 2:30 p.m., New People Cinema.
Astro Boy: The Movie (USA 2009) Film: Friday, March 22, 5:30 p.m., New People Cinema.

Astro Boy: The 60th Anniversary Exhibition: Friday, March 22, 7 p.m., Superfrog Gallery, 1746 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown. Free and open to the public.

All showings are $12 for general admission and $11 for seniors and students unless otherwise noted.

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