Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 CAAMFest

The 2014 CAAMFest (formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival) ran from March 13 to 23 with screenings at the Sundance Kabuki, New People Cinema, the Castro Theater, the Great Star Theater, PFA and the New Parkway.  I recall there was an announcement for the dates of CAAMFest San Jose this summer but I cannot find any information on their website.  Last year, the San Jose edition ran in mid-August so it should be coming up.

The first four days of the 2014 CAAMFest conflicted with the last four days of the 2014 Cinequest.  I chose to attend Cinequest.  It was a tough choice because many of the CAAMFest films I wanted to see only screened during those first four days of the festival.  As a result, I missed out on several films - Farah Goes Bang, Siddharth and the Run Run Shaw retrospective consisting of The Kingdom and the Beauty, Come Drink With Me and King Boxer (the latter which I saw at the New Parkway last year).

Cold Eyes starring Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Woo-sung & Han Hyo-joo; directed by Jo Ui-seok & Kim Byung-seo; Korean with subtitles; (2013)
Innocent Blood starring Jun Sung Kim & C.S. Lee; directed by D.J. Holloway & Sun Kim; (2013) - Official Website
White Powder and Neon Lights starring Leung Bik-Yuk & Hok Sing Wong; directed by Wong Kam-yan; Cantonese with subtitles; (1947)
Innocents starring Nameera Ashley & Cai Chengyue; directed by Chen-Hsi Wong; English & Malay with subtitles; (2012) - Official Website
Awesome Asian Bad Guys starring Stephen Dypiangco, Patrick Epino & Tamlyn Tomita; directed by Stephen Dypiangco & Patrick Epino; (2014) - Official Website

Provocauteurs (portmanteau of provocative and auteurs) was a short film program consisting of:

H7N3; directed by Iris K. Shim; (2013)
The Hole; directed by Joon Seong Ahn & Min-Seop Lee; Korean with subtitles; (2012)
Kill of the Night; directed by Aya Tanimura; (2013)
Milkyboy; directed by Arnold Arre; Tagalog & English with subtitles; (2013)
Sewing Woman; directed by Woo Jin; Korean with subtitles; (2012)
Sukiyaki with Love; directed by Akiko Izumitani; (2013)
Thinking About Thinking; directed by Adrian David; (2013)
What Remains; directed by Sarita Khurana; (2013)

I saw Cold Eyes at the Castro, White Power and Neon Lights at the Great Star Theater, Provocauteurs at the Viz and everything at the Kabuki.

In general, I was disappointed with the program at this year's CAAMFest.  Cold Eyes was a Centerpiece Presentation so I couldn't use a Festival 6-Pack for it.  I had difficulty finding six other films which interested me.  I used one of the 6-Pack vouchers for Black Market Couple on March 19 but I skipped out on the screening.  Although I was fatigued from having seen films on 22 out of 24 consecutive days prior to March 19, I had enough energy & desire to see Generation War Part 2 at the Landmark Embarcadero & then hightail it to the 4 Star for Special ID on the evening Black Market Couple was screening.


Cold Eyes is a remake of Eye in the Sky, a 2007 Hong Kong film starring Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka Fai and produced by Johnnie To.  I saw Eye in the Sky at the 2007 SFIAAFF.  I don't remember Eye in the Sky too well.  Yam and the instantly recognizable Suet Lam are part of To's regular acting troupe.  Leung was very intimidating in his role as the master criminal as I recall.

As I was watching Cold Eyes, I recalled portions of Eye in the Sky.  Like the HK film, Cold Eyes is a little impersonal.  Character development was given perfunctory screen time while much more was devoted to the "hunt" which was overly elaborate, bordering on rococo.  Plot summary - the chief of the surveillance unit in Seoul (I think) hires a rookie female cop into his unit.  Around the same time (during the interview actually), a gang of professional robbers strike.  Using Seoul's surveillance cameras and through highly coordinated actions, the police close in on the gang but not without bloodshed.

Of the seven programs I saw at the 2014 CAAMFest, Cold Eyes was my favorite but frankly it was slightly above average.  It was fun while I was watching but it didn't leave many lasting impressions in my memory.


Innocent Blood - poorly acted and an uninspired script left my wandering during the screening.  My lasting impression is that during the screening I wanted the film to wrap up.  Not horrible; rather I would call it second rate.

White Powder and Neon Lights - for the second consecutive year, I ventured to the Great Star Theater in Chinatown to see a film at CAAMFest.  CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong gave an interesting introduction about the filmmaker and how several reels of historically important films were saved from a trash dumpster in Oakland.  WP&NL was made by the Grandview Film Company in San Francisco.  Grandview made Cantonese language films in San Francisco during WWII and afterwards.  It also has the distinction of being the first Cantonese language film shot in color.

WP&NL is a melodrama about a Chinese theater troupe in San Francisco.  A famous HK opera singer is signed to appear in a SF production.  When she arrives she falls for a gangster/lothario which puts the production in jeopardy.  WP&NL had a forgettable plot; I can't remember how it ended.  More of a novelty piece, the film showcased many locations around SF and had the added benefit of Chinese actresses dressed in fashionable, post-WWII outfits.

Black Market Couple, the film I missed was another Grandview production from the same era.  The main difference being it was a comedy.

Innocents - an abstract film which spent too much time luxuriating on composed images and nature scenes.  This film tells the (non)story of two children - one a studious young girl and the other a lackadaisical boy.  The two classmates become friends and spend a lot of time playing near a forest, railroad tracks and storm drains.  The two children had somewhat turbulent home lives but the narrative was underdeveloped which ultimately turned me against this film. I am finding that as I get older, film must capture my interest by the 30 minute or 45 minute mark or I simply lose interest.  When I lose interest, I have a hard time appreciating the remainder of the film.  Innocents lost my attention at some point and it never regained it.

Awesome Asian Bad Guys - the little Asian American film that could.  Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, co-directors Stephen Dypiangco & Patrick Epino also starred in this comedy.  I can't remember all the details.  Tamlyn Tomita is kidanpped by her evil twin sister Pamlyn or something.  Anyway, Dypiangco & Epino are compelled to act so they assemble a team which consists of Al Leong (the Asian bad guy from Die Hard and Lethal Weapon), George Cheung (Rambo: First Blood Part II), a young girl named Jet Li and Randall Park (best remembered by me as the guy with the big penis from The People I've Slept With but apparently better known for Larry Crowne).

At 52 minutes, AABG doesn't delve too deeply into satire or anything.  I think it was a web series compiled to make a "movie."  It had a few laughs.  They milked the Asian angle for everything it was worth and then some.  Much like Nice Girls Crew from previous CAAMFest, I was amused but mostly underwhelmed by the program.

Provocauteurs - this was the last program I saw at this year's CAAMFest.  By this point in the festival, I had given up on it.  I was disappointed in the quality of the programs I had seen.  I came very close to skipping the screening but having skipped out on Black Market Couple, I felt it was too wasteful to burn another ticket.  I should have skipped out because my attention waned throughout and I dozed off for some of the short films.  It is possible that the films I was asleep for were great but the ones I remember aren't worth the effort to document them here.


The 2014 CAAMFest was one of the most disappointing film festivals I can recall attending.  The films I saw were disappointing or forgettable.

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