Pass the Remote: Notable Asian female-focused films in 2024 CAAMFest

After her longtime companion Pat dies, Angie confronts the limits and unspoken biases of family in "All Shall Be Well," one of the best films of 2024. It screens May 11 in San Francisco at CAAMFest, presented by the Center for Asian American Media. (Courtesy Strand Releasing)

Exceptional female-focused features drive this year’s slate of films at CAAMFest, the annual Center for Asian American Media festival that celebrates and spotlights Asian culture, from film to food.

The festival runs May 9-19 in San Francisco and Oakland on May 19, coinciding with Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month. In addition to standout films that focus on women, and often directed and written by women, there will be performances, talks and tempting food experiences.

There’s also a two-day Industry Hub meetup designed for filmmakers, creatives and community leaders on May 10-11 at Four One Nine Gallery in San Francisco.

The festival kicks off at 6:30 p.m. May 9 at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts with directors Hao Wu and Miao Wang’s insightful, creatively told documentary “Admissions Granted,” detailing the history of cases leading up to the Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling striking down affirmative action in higher education. An opening party follows at the Asian Art Museum.

“And So It Begins,” which recounts the end of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s strongarm reign and chronicles the ensuing 2022 presidential election there, is the festival’s excellent closing night documentary. It’s directed by heralded filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz, and is a companion piece to her film “A Thousand Cuts,” about the relationship between the press and Duterte’s government. Diaz, a Stanford University alum, will attend the 6:30 p.m. May 18 screening at the Phyllis Wattis Theater at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, along with associate producer Allana de Guzman and editor Aaron Soffin.

Here are six movie recommendations:

The best film in this bunch is Ray Yeung’s “All Shall Be Well,” part of the program’s Hong Kong Cinema Showcase. The emotionally piercing award winner (it took home the Teddy for best LGBTQ-themed feature film at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival) illustrates how one family’s deep-seeded biases painfully come to the fore when one member of an established lesbian couple suddenly dies, and the grieving survivor (Patra Au, in a phenomenal performance) carries on, even as she’s emotionally and economically shoved to the sidelines by the deceased woman’s family. (7:30 p.m. May 11, SFMOMA)

The Sundance award winner “Girls Will Be Girls” looks at the sexual awakening of 16-year-old Mira (Preeti Panigrahi). an exemplary student leader held to the highest of standards. (Courtesy Juno Films)  

I was fortunate to catch CAAMFest’s Centerpiece selection; it was screened virtually at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the audience award for best world narrative feature. Director-screenwriter Shuchi Talati’s feature debut “Girls Will Be Girls” sensually and authentically evokes the sexual stirrings of 16-year-old student leader Mira (Preeti Panigrahi) and a complicated relationship between daughter and mother (Kani Kusruti) in North India. Always a role model, Mira’s growing attraction to a transfer student (Kesav Binoy Kiran) from Hong Kong allows her to explore her sexual curiosity. Talati’s feature is sensual, not salacious, and wise about generational jealousies and the emotional (and at times damaging) tug-of-war between a mother and daughter. (2:35 p.m. May 18, SFMOMA; Talati slated to attend)

Dilber (Guzalnur Uchqun) observes her sister’s wedding and then prepares for her own in the wrenching “Nikah.” (Courtesy CAAMFest) 

Resigned to her fate to get married since the government in the Uyghur Region in Northwestern China is encouraging families to marry off daughters, Dilber (Guzalnur Uchqun) confronts the paralyzing reality that she, at 27, in next line to be wed in directors Mukaddas Mijit and Bastien Ehouzan’s quietly outraged “Nikah.” The Uyghur community is dwindling and Dilber sees an opportunity to potentially find happiness elsewhere. But outside forces could prevent that from happening. Told in just shy of 60 minutes and with an immediate feel (it’s sometimes filmed on a phone). “Nikah” sheds light on an issue that’s existed in the shadows for many. (12:30 p.m. May 19, New Parkway Theater 2)

Filmed and set in Oakland, “Owl” finds Jean (Marica Petrey) caring for her ailing father and facing an ethical dilemma while on the job at her dad’s locksmith business. (Courtesy CAAMFest) 

Oakland continues to be a hotspot for filmmaking. “Owl,” set there and directed by one of its residents, provides further proof. Julian Pham’s promising directorial debut, a character-driven drama, shows a deep appreciation for the East Bay city. Restless daughter Jean (Marica Petrey, also a producer) returns home to help her ailing father and pinch hit for him at his locksmith business. A customer call leads her into the maw of an ethical dilemma. As “Owl” suggests, principles can get hazy when a pile of overdue notices keeps growing. (6:30 p.m. May 19, New Parkway Theater)

The sale of a backpack sparks an unlikely friendship between Simone (Sam Yim) and Sav (Annika Foster) in “Meeting You, Meeting Me.” (Courtesy CAAMFest)

The sale of a backpack leads to an unlikely friendship between two women:  an emotionally pent-up Korean American divorce attorney Simone (Sam Yim) and a free-spirited wanderer (Annika Foster) who’s been canceled on social media. Lina Suh’s “Meeting You, Meeting Me” spends much of its time with both women reflecting on their pasts, desires and newfound friendship. Actor Patrick Luwis enlivens things when his character delivers a pizza and helps Simone get her stalled groove back. (3 p.m. May 19, New Parkway Theater 1)

For another (mostly) two-hander that benefits from charismatic leads, check out the meta comedy about making a movie on the fly, “Extremely Unique Dynamic,” from the multi-talented team of Harrison Xu and Ivan Leung. Along with Katherine Dudas, they directed this fun fast-talking comedy, and also wrote and star in it.  Leung plays bummed-out Daniel whose best friend Ryan (Xu) is leaving Los Angeles for Canada to be with his girlfriend. They decide to shoot a movie over a weekend, a process that uncovers a few secrets. You won’t want to miss this nimble-footed comedy. (8 p.m. May 11 at the Roxie; Xu, Leung and producer Noel Do-Murakami plan to attend)

For details and to order tickets ($18-$20 for most films, more for special events), visit

The post Pass the Remote: Notable Asian female-focused films in 2024 CAAMFest appeared first on Local News Matters.

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