CAAMFEST 2018 – May 10-24, San Francisco & Oakland


One of the things that I appreciate about the San Francisco Bay Area after I moved here is the rich cultural activities in the area, and that includes the annual Asian American film festival known as CAAMFEST (known prior to 2013 as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) – quite a mouthful). The festival is organized by the Center of Asian American Media (CAAM), which is based in San Francisco.

This year kicks off with the premiere of a documentary about Norman Mineta:

““An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy” will have its world premiere Thursday night in San Francisco.

The film about the former San Jose mayor, Congressman and cabinet secretary to two U.S. presidents is the opening night film of the Center for Asian American Media film festival, known as CAAMFest. Mineta, 86, also will be honored by the city of San Francisco on opening night as part of the 40th anniversary festivities for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Mineta’s story really is a classic American tale of success, with the tragic irony that begins it: As an 11-year-old, he was interned with his family at Heart Mountain, Wyo., during World War II. (Even that story has a cinematic twist: Mineta met fellow Boy Scout and future Sen. Alan Simpson there.) In 1971, he became the first Asian-American elected mayor of a major U.S. city and served two decades in Congress, starting in 1975. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce by President Clinton in 2000 and served as Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush in 2001.”

I live near San Jose, and I’m often reminded about Mineta when I fly out of Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is named after him. And I’m a big fan of documentaries and recall seeing Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority at CAAMFest back in 2009 and being blown away about learning her story and surprised that I hadn’t known about her beforehand.

A big change from previous years is that the film festival is now being held in May, to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, instead of being held in February or March like it has in the past.

There are a quite a number of films to screened again this year. However, the San Francisco Chronicle has recommended the top 10 films to see this year, including (in alphabetical order):

Also, since 2013, the CAAMFEST organizers have expanded the nature of the festival beyond films to incorporate food and music programs and over time, increasingly more to convey cultural experience through the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists.

This year’s festival theme – “Culture, In Every Sense”- is emphasized throughout the program with expanded music and food sections, a virtual reality project that is also produced by CAAM, and a special closing night performance by Bay Area native, Brenda Wong Aoki.

There’s even a Disoriented Comedy Show, where I’m looking forward seeing comedian Jenny Yang perform and finally meet her in person (I mostly know her for her funny videos posted on Facebook and elsewhere)!

Be sure to check out the CAAMFEST36 festival website as well as online program guide to learn about all the films and events going on.

NYC Theater Review: Once On This Island

Once on This Island, now playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre (W. 50th), is an utter delight. Your heart will swell and weep and swell again before the night’s over. The musical, set on a Caribbean island, follows Ti Moune, a young girl who’s fallen in love with someone from the other side of the island. Kept apart by class and culture, Ti Moune is guided by the gods on a remarkable journey. An amazing and diverse cast is captivating and engaging. And there’s a live goat on stage to boot.

I first heard about this revival because of Lea Salonga, who plays one of the gods. If you don’t already know who she is, I’m not going to tell you, except to say that I would see her in anything. But as amazing as she is, the whole cast of Once On This Island really blew me away. From the debut performances of Haley Kilgore playing Ti Moune (girl, those vocal cords are no joke) and Isaac Powell as her love Daniel, to Alex Newell’s blow the house down number “Mama Will Provide” and the tenor that hums in your soul from Quentin Earl Darrington, to the “Storytellers” who round out the cast.

Continue reading “NYC Theater Review: Once On This Island”

“What Role Can We Play in Fighting Hate Online?” L.A. Event from the ADL Asian Jewish Initiative and NextGen Community

Robert Kang
Robert Kang
The community is invited to a discussion on “What role can we play in fighting hate online?” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League’s Asian Jewish Initiative and NextGen Community on Wednesday, February 15, at Google, 340 Main St. in Venice, at 7 p.m. There will be a NextGen-hosted happy hour following the program.

Speakers include Brittan Heller, ADL’s first Director of Technology and Society, and Robert Kang, Cyber Security Counsel and lecturer.

The ADL Asian Jewish Initiative is a partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, Japanese American National Museum, Korean American Coalition, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, and Search to Involve Pilipino Americans.

The ADL NextGen community introduces ADL’s mission, policies and initiatives to new, youthful audiences and emerging community leaders.

Admission is free but pre-registration is required at:
this form or email [email protected]. Call 310-446-4232 with questions.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is one of the nation’s premier human relations and civil rights agencies and is dedicated to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defending democratic ideals, and protecting civil rights for all.

NYC Theater Review: “Aubergine” by Julia Cho

Aubergine August 20, 2016 – October 02, 2016 Mainstage Theater Written by Julia Cho Directed by Kate Whoriskey New York Premiere A man shares a bowl of berries, and a young woman falls in love. A world away, a mother prepares a bowl of soup to keep her son from leaving home. And a son cooks a meal for his dying father to say everything that words can’t. In Julia Cho’s poignant and lyrical new play, the making of a perfect meal is an expression more precise than language, and the medium through which life gradually reveals itself. FEATURING Tim Kang Sue Jean Kim Jessica Love Stephen Park Michael Potts Joseph Steven Yang Scenic Design: Derek McLane Costume Design: Jennifer Moeller Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski Sound Design: M.L. Dogg Production Stage Manager: Cole P. Bonenberger
Stephen Park & Tim Kang, Photo by Joan Marcus

Aubergine, a new play written by Julia Cho, opens today at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. Running through October 2, it’s an emotional story about family, death, and food. Ray’s father is home on hospice with his son Ray, a first-generation Korean American chef, who is struggling with how to manage and how to cope. To notify his father’s brother, he calls on his ex-girlfriend Cornelia to tell him in Korean. When his uncle unexpectedly shows up with a soup recipe, Ray is thrown into new challenges–including a live and very expensive turtle, his own relationship with his father and career as a chef, and an uncle who speaks a different language. Rounding out those who care for Ray’s father is Lucien, the hospice worker, who offers his own perspective on death and the dying, and whose lines provide the play’s title.

Full of depth, Aubergine is a quiet play in many ways, yet it is incredibly moving. Cho deftly deals with that most human of events–dying and death–without being heavy handed. And through it all, food, its meaning flooding memories and interactions. I should say too that this is not a depressing play, despite dealing so intimately with death. “Catharsis” is the word Playwrights’ artistic director uses to describe the feeling. I would call it a kind of fullness, the feeling the audience carries out the door with them. Continue reading “NYC Theater Review: “Aubergine” by Julia Cho”

NYC Theater Review: “Green Card: A New Musical”

GreenCardGreen Card: A New Musical takes on immigrant artists and the American dream in a new musical from young director Dimo Kim. Playing at Theatre at St. Clement’s until August 26, it focuses on the story of Han, an actor and a South Korean immigrant living in Harlem with an expired visa who, as a result, can’t find work. And because he can’t find work, he can’t get an artists visa. Hijinks ensue. Han finds himself entering a fake marriage for a green card with Mia, in exchange for a sizable sum of money. They fumble through immigration interviews and the turmoil of a new relationship, fake or not. As to how Han’s girlfriend Kim feels about it? You’ll have to watch to find out.

This is an energetic musical with young talent and carries a relevant and provocative story in need of telling.

Continue reading “NYC Theater Review: “Green Card: A New Musical””

NYC Theater Review: “Kentucky” by Leah Nanako Winkler

Satomi Blair & Sasha Diamond in KENTUCKY, Photo by Jody Christopherson
Satomi Blair (Hiro) and Sasha Diamond (Sophie) in Kentucky, Photo by Jody Christopherson

Showing in New York until May 22, Kentucky by Leah Nanako Winkler is a tumultuous and energetic ride through the lives of a Kentucky family on the eve of a wedding. It’s a play about home–home and family, for better and for worse. And it’s both over the top theatrical while also sweetly engaging and relatable.

Hiro’s younger sister Sophie is about to get married to a born-again Christian, six months after their first meeting. Hiro–returning back to Kentucky (which she insists is no longer home) from New York–is determined to free her sister from their abusive father, “brainwashed” mother, and the small world of Kentucky. And this is only the beginning. Continue reading “NYC Theater Review: “Kentucky” by Leah Nanako Winkler”

ICYMI: Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016 – Recap & Review


Back this March – Friday, March 18th to Sunday, March 20th, I had the good fortune of being able to attend the first ever Silicon Valley Comic Con. I’ve always wanted to go to Comic Con in San Diego, but it seems that year-after-year, tickets for the conference get harder and harder to get. I had only heard about the event a few weeks prior to the show – applied for a press pass online, and shortly afterwards, received confirmation for press credentials.

The idea of Silicon Valley Comic Con was first conceived by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak:

“Silicon Valley Comic Con will be a show unlike any other, as we bring together the best in technology and entertainment all under one gigantic roof,” Wozniak wrote on the convention’s official page. “There are lots of fans like me in San Francisco and the Valley, and I’m excited to finally have a Comic Con with our very own flavor. When I was growing up it was hard to be a geek. It definitely wasn’t cool back then, but I am happy that things have changed because now being a geek, or being different is cool. And Silicon Valley Comic Con celebrates being a geek!””

What got me really excited was the fact that there was going to be a “Back to the Future” (BTTF) panel with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson. BTTF is one of my all time favorite movies, so I was pretty excited to possibly attend.

I was able to attend all three days, but not all day – Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Overall, I had a great time – though I thought the convention hall was a bit crowded and the event could have been a bit more organized (the organizers were aiming for 30,000 attendees but announced after the conference that there were over 60,000 attendees over the three days), but hiccups were to be expected since this was the first ever Silicon Valley Comic Con. Overall, I had a blast and look forward to attending Silicon Valley Comic Con 2017!

Here’s my brief recap…

Continue reading “ICYMI: Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016 – Recap & Review”

Theater Review: “Smart People” Takes on Race at Second Stage

SmartPeople Smart People, now at 2econd Stage Theatre in New York, takes an incisive look at the role race plays in our lives, from career to personal, and particularly when the two mesh. Written by Lydia Diamond and starring Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), Joshua Jackson (The Affair, Dawson’s Creek), Anne Son (My Generation), and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People), Smart People is a fast-paced, invigorating play.

Four Harvard intellectuals see their worlds collide as they deal with careers, love, and identity. Underpinning it all–the successes and failures–is the influence of race. How does it shape daily interactions? From microaggressions to blunt statements, Smart People strikes at who and what is “racist.” What is tolerable and what is not.

While none of the statements, jokes, and snappy comments made about race were particularly new and cutting, that is perhaps their beauty. To see these uncomfortable conversations play out on stage, for stereotypes to be made and broken, broken and re-made, is unspeakably valuable. It is largely artful, excepting some inevitable stumbles. Interracial relationships of all types abound (or as many as you can make with four characters). Specific lines — “I’m uncomfortable celebrating my marginalization with other disgruntled minorities,” for one — cut through. In the hands of an enormously talented cast, Smart People shines.

More and special offer code after the jump–

Continue reading “Theater Review: “Smart People” Takes on Race at Second Stage”

Asians Behaving Badly: Serial Podcast – The Murder of Hae Min Lee

hae min lee Recently a friend of mine recommended Serial Podcast to me. The first season of Serial aired last fall 2014 and ended up one of the most popular podcasts in America. The series investigates a murder of a young teenage girl back in 1999 Baltimore, Maryland, and her ex-boyfriend was charged and found guilty of her murder, sentenced to life.

I knew the premise of the story when I started listening to it, but it wasn’t until I completely finished the first episode that I realized that in this wildly popular real-life murder mystery series, the murdered teenage girl and her convicted ex-boyfriend were actually both Americans of Asian descent.

Hae Min Lee was a popular senior girl at Woodlawn High School, part of the lacrosse team, manager of the wrestling team, and a top student at the school’s magnet program. As you can probably guess from her name, she is of Korean descent, likely second generation as her mother speaks little to no English. When she didn’t show up to pick up her little cousin from school one Friday afternoon, the search was on for her as a missing person, and sadly, her body was found six weeks later at a park in a shallow grave.

Continue reading “Asians Behaving Badly: Serial Podcast – The Murder of Hae Min Lee”

The White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: Historic Gathering of Almost 2,000 People


This week, on May 12, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Washington, DC. Nearly 2,000 community members, federal officials, and guests from over 40 states and the Pacific Islands came together to connect with one other, share their experiences and stories, and gain tools to mobilize their communities to continue expanding opportunity for AAPIs everywhere.

President Obama sent a video message to the Summit participants:

Said Kiran Ahuja, the Executive Director of the Initiative:

Throughout this summit, we heard the same clear message across federal government: we are working hard to better reach and serve the dynamic and diverse needs of our nation’s growing AAPI community. That is precisely why WHIAAPI focuses on building bridges between government and advocacy groups, institutions, and local communities. To further these goals, we focused our plenaries, fireside chats with government leaders, nearly 25 panel discussions, and brown bag lunches – on highlighting and addressing issues that impact AAPI communities around the country. Topics discussed spanned the gamut, from bullying and harassment in schools to the power of immigrant and refugee voices to social entrepreneurship.

Check out the Flickr photoset from the day:

About the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Continue reading “The White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: Historic Gathering of Almost 2,000 People”

Invitation to 8Asians Readers in Los Angeles: ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ “Watch Party” (Plus ‘Cristela’ & ‘Empire’)

UPDATE 2/11/2015: Thanks for a great turnout to the event. (The RSVP information is being removed from this post.)

8Asians is happy to partner with Fox Audience Strategy to invite our readers and (and your friends and family!) to join us at this fun and exclusive “Watch Party” at UCLA on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, the official launch of the highly anticipated Fresh Off the Boat in its regular time slot (Tuesdays at 8pm). Refreshments will be available from 6-7pm and the screenings will follow.

Date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Time: 6:00PM – 8:00PM
Location: UCLA, 147 Dodd Hall
Seating is limited. Click here to RSVP (required)
Hashtag: #FreshOffTheBoat

1) What is the premiere date of FOTB?
ABC plans to air a special two-episode premiere TONIGHT, Wednesday, February 4, at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

The first airdate in their actual time slot is 8 p.m. on ABC, beginning Tuesday, February 10, 2015.

2) If the show is airing on ABC, why is FOX hosting this screening?
While ABC is indeed distributing the show, Fresh Off the Boat is actually a 20th Century Fox Television production and is shot on the FOX lot.

3) How do I RSVP?
RSVP is required as seating is limited. Click here to RSVP.

4) Which episodes will be screened?
We will be showing Fresh Off the Boat Episodes 3 & 4… the same ones that will be airing that night, plus some bonus Cristela and Empire!

5) Why do you have a question 5?
Because I couldn’t end on question 4.


Join the National AAPI Community Google+ Hangout: February 20, 2014

By Kiran Ahuja on

8A-2014-02-12-WhiteHouseAAPIGoogle+HangoutPlease join the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), as well as government, civic and business leaders from across the country on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 3 PM ET for our National AAPI Community Google+ Hangout!

Building on key topics highlighted in President Obama’s State of the Union address, we’ll discuss national priorities for AAPI communities and launch a drive to engage the AAPI community. We’ll also announce new efforts we’re working on with our partners around critical issues facing the AAPI community.

White House and Administration officials will talk about what we’ve learned and done nationally, and our next steps. Konrad Ng, Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, will announce this year’s AAPI Heritage Month theme. And, most importantly, we’ll have an opportunity to hear from people like you.

You can submit questions anytime on Twitter using #WHIAAPI, email them to [email protected], or submit them on Google+ before or during the Hangout, but the inaugural National AAPI Community Google+ Hangout depends on your thoughtful participation, so please sign-up and join the conversation.

Hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

DATE: Thursday, February 20, 2014

TIME: 3 p.m. ET (12 noon PT)


Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.