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    Everyone Everywhere Loves CAAMFest

    By Jan Wahl–

    CAAMFest is a call to gather so that we may witness our transformations, restore our bonds, and lift each other up in the audacity of our stories. Celebrating Asian and Asian American stories in film, music, food, and ideas, it runs from May 11 through May 21. Festival and Exhibitions Director Thúy Trần is clearly celebrating.

    I began by asking her if the success at this year’s Oscars of Everything Everywhere All at Once was a true milestone. She replied, “It is a great step and, yes, it definitely opens more doors. But why did it take so long? This 41st year is amazing, but we’ve been here a long time [and are] ready to tell our stories in so many ways. So, of course, it is great, but organizations like CAAM have been here ready and able to present it all. We create experiences for our community and others to heal, communicate, rejoice. Our pride is here and diverse, though relating to our sexuality and generational struggles.”

    She added, “This year we have a wonderful LBGTQ Short Film program, artists and filmmakers looking at the Asian and Asian American queer experience. The documentary on Fanny, an all-female rock group, will also have a live performance by this mostly queer group who was instrumental in early female rock. In their 70s they are still rocking, giving us all hope! There will be a centerpiece highlighting cuisine, anime … the list goes on.”

    Director and Producer Quentin Lee is proud of his part in the Festival. The Last Summer of Nathan Lee was inspired by movies he loved, like American Graffiti and Porky’s. He also had a friend who was dying of brain cancer and told him he wanted to have as much sex as possible before he passed on. Lee was sure to infuse the film with sexuality that was fluid and as intimate as he could film it.  The Nagisa Ōshima 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses was one he saw as a young person, when he was taken by its depiction of insatiable sexual desire. He is hoping he captured some of its brilliance. 

    With Pride Month coming up, I am ready to watch Happy Together, The Handmaiden, and Netflix’s original from 2018, Dear Ex. Performers of note include Awkwafina, Ross Butler, Dev Patel, Constance Wu, Sandra Oh, Margaret Cho, and so many others. Three of my favorite movies with Asian and Asian American casts definitely were crossover hits: Minari, Parasite, and Crazy Rich Asians.

    I’ll always reach for The Joy Luck Club and anything directed by Wayne Wang. Spirited Away and Raya and the Last Dragon are terrific family animated films, while Saving Face and The Wedding Banquet are two of my favorite romances of all time. From Akira Kurosawa to Ang Lee, Joan Chen to Chow Yun-Fat to Bong Joon-ho, this list could go on forever and into the future.

    The Hollywood past of Asians on screen is well documented in 2006’s The Slanted Screen, 2008’s Hollywood Chinese, and 2019’s Yellowface: Asian Whitewashing and Racism in Hollywood. My mother was fortunate enough to know Anna May Wong when they lived in Santa Monica in the ’50s. Mention her name and Mom would really get mad at Hollywood, seething about the fact that Wong did not get to star in The Good Earth. Searching for Anna May Wong tells the actress’ heartbreaking struggle as well as the journey of other Asian and Asian American performers. Find this movie streaming somewhere, and see you at CAAMFest 41!           

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on May 4, 2023