ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

CAAMFest 2016─Asian American film, food, music─starts today; here are the must see films

Every year, CAAMFest offers fascinating documentaries. Ayat Najafi’s endearing “No Man’s Land” follows the ceaseless efforts of his sister Sara Najafi whose dream is to mount a concert in her hometown, Tehran, featuring female singers performing Persian songs written and once performed by Iranian female singers of the 1920’s, 1940’s and 1960’s. The music is entrancing. Footage of Tehran’s once grand concerts halls and Najafi’s visits with authorities in Iran create a portrait like no other of this nation that continues to defy categorization. Image: CAAM

Every year, CAAMFest offers fascinating documentaries. Iranian director Ayat Najafi’s “No Man’s Land” follows the ceaseless efforts of his sister, composer Sara Najafi, whose dream is to mount a concert Tehran featuring female singers performing Persian songs written and once performed by Iranian female singers of the 1920’s, 1940’s and 1960’s. The music is entrancing. Footage of Tehran’s once grand concerts halls and Najafi’s visits with authorities in Iran create a portrait like no other of this nation that continues to defy categorization. Image: CAAM

CAAMFest 2016, an 11 day celebration of Asian-American and Asian film, food, music kicks off this evening at the Castro Theatre with the Bay Area premiere of Pamela Tom’s award-winning documentary, Tyrus and a rocking after-party at the Asian Art Museum.  The festival’s program includes 10 world premieres, 23 narrative features, 16 feature documentaries and dozens of other films, along with thoughtfully-curated panels that explore the Asian America experience.  CAAMFest spends its first 8 days at various locales in San Francisco and then moves on to Oakland for a long final weekend.  Programming starts between 5 and 6:30 p.m. on most weekdays and weekends are fully packed weekends.   Learn more about Tyrus and CAAMFest 2016 at www.caamfest.com/2016.

Here are ARThound’s top picks:

Married for over 40 years, Chinese couple Feng and Lou are inseparable. She suffers dementia and he tenderly cares for her. When his own health is jeopardized, the two are forced to consider a big move in Zhao Qing’s evocative “Please Remember Me.” Photo: courtesy CAAM.

Married for over 40 years, Chinese couple Feng and Lou are inseparable. She suffers dementia and he tenderly cares for her. When his own health is jeopardized, and he is not able to fulfill his duties, the fragile house of cards that he has constructed so carefully topples.  The two are forced to consider a big move in Zhao Qing’s evocative “Please Remember Me.” Photo: courtesy CAAM.

Please Remember Me:     Growing old gracefully─with dignitiy and health─ is a global challenge that has had a particularly severe impact on China.  In 2013, there were more than 200 million Chinese over the age of 60.   Many of the adult children of elderly Chinese parents have settled abroad or live in urban areas and their parents face the struggle of aging with little daily support for the practicalities. Chinese director Zhao Qing’s documentary turns the spotlight on her elderly octogenarian grandparents─Shaghai couple Feng and Lou─inseparable for the past 40 years.  He calls her his “baby girl” and she calls him her “Mr. Silly.”  Lou is 88 and has suffered Alzheimer’s for the past decade.  She has deteriorated to the point that that only person she recognizes is her loving husband, who stills takes her to her beloved Chinese opera, despite her lack of comprehension.  When he is diagnosed with a pancreatic mass, their world is rocked as they must contemplate life in a care facility.  Tenderly told and beautifully executed, with rich bows to recent events in Chinese history, this story is one that all of us with aging parents will take to heart. (78 min, in Shanghai dialect with English subtitles) (Screens:  Sat, March 12, 1 p.m., Alamo; Sun, March 20, 4:40 p.m., New Parkway)

 

The Killing Fields of Cambodoia’s Khmer Rouge continue to haunt after 40 years. How does society heal? As the Khmer Rouge tribunal collects testimonies from aging war criminals and survivors alike, Michael Siv travels to Cambodia with survivors to film “Daze of Justice,” which has its world premiere at CAAMFest 2016. Photo: CAAM

The Killing Fields of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge continue to haunt after 40 years. How does society heal? As the Khmer Rouge tribunal collects testimonies from aging war criminals and survivors alike, Michael Siv travels to Cambodia with survivors to film “Daze of Justice,” which has its world premiere at CAAMFest 2016. Photo: CAAM

Centerpiece Presentation: Daze of Justice, World Premiere:     Bay Area filmmaker Michael Siv, who himself was a participant in Spencer Nakasako’s vital 2003 documentary Refugee, returns to Cambodia once again. There, Pol Pot’s heinous regime murdered roughly 1.7.million people between 1975 and 1979 and was responsible for running work camps that enslaved Cambodians into collectivized labor to build dams and infrastructure and to oversea the mass murder of their fellow countrymen.  It’s no wonder that this lush cradle of civilization, home to the fabled Angkhor, is still reeling. This time, Siv accompanies Khmer Rouge survivors from the U.S. to their homeland where they seek justice, catharsis and healing in a court for genocide.  (Screens: Sat, March 12, 3 p.m., Alamo)

 

A scene from Ayat Najafi’s “No Land’s Song.” The documentary follows Iranian composer Sara Najafi in her attempt to organize a concert in Tehran with other female solo singers, something that is strictly forbidden under Islamic law. Photo: CAAM

A scene from Ayat Najafi’s “No Land’s Song.” The documentary follows Iranian composer Sara Najafi in her attempt to organize a concert in Tehran with other female solo singers, something that is strictly forbidden under Islamic law. Photo: CAAM

 

No Land’s Song:    For Iranian composer, Sara Najafi, the act of communication is a nuanced, multifaceted and exhausting endeavor when it comes to getting permission to sing in public in Tehran. Iran’s 1979 Revolution of banned female singers from appearing in public in Iran and they are not allowed to perform solo except for an exclusively female audience.  In the documentary, “No Land’s Song,” Persian filmmaker Ayat Najafi follows his sister, Sara Najafi whose dream is to mount a concert in her hometown, Tehran, featuring female singers performing Persian songs written and once performed by Iranian female singers of the 1920’s, 1940’s and 1960’s.  Sara realizes that, unless she acts, the female vocal voice in Iran may well be lost.  Were it not captured on film, no would could imagine the convoluted logic, objections and snafu’s that the Iranian Ministry of Culture uses to dissuade her as well as the long-winded metaphor that she receives from an Islamic scholar on why a group  of women singing together is not a dangerous as a solo female singer is.  As Sara moves forward with her plans, inviting artists from France and Tunisia, who incite all sorts of visa concerns, we are brought into the complex and depressing world of an artist just trying to survive in contemporary Iran.  The entrancing music, much of it addressing suffering and transcendence, includes nods to such pre-revolutionary greats as Ghamar Ol Molouk Vaziri, who, in 1924, became the first woman in Iran to perform without a hijab in front of men, and Tunisian singer Emel Mathlouthi whose song “Kelmti Horra” inspired protestors during the Arab Spring. With footage of street-life in Tehran and visits to several dilapidated but once grand concert venues, this is also a must-see portrait of Tehran.  And there are plenty of shots of women tying, arranging and primping in their headscarfs. (Screens: Wed, March 16, 8:40 PM, Alamo)

In South Korean director Lee Won-suk’s sumptuous period drama, “The Royal Tailor,” a commoner with an innate gift for clothing design catches the eye of the queen and then goes on to design clothing that upsets etiquette and ignites the passions of rivals. Photo: CAAM

In South Korean director Lee Won-suk’s sumptuous period drama, “The Royal Tailor,” a commoner with an innate gift for clothing design catches the eye of the queen and then goes on to design clothing that upsets etiquette and ignites the passions of rivals. The film, while not always true to history, does track the evolution of Korean style and features exquisite hanboks, Korean national costumes, which are seen rarely seen today, except at formal occasions.  Photo: CAAM

 

The Royal Tailor:   South Korean director Lee Won-suk weaves a fine tapestry of court intrigue and high fashion in this period drama, set in the broad Joseon dynasty (1392-1897), which pits two very different tailors against each other in a design competition for the new king’s favor.  At first, it seems that Dol-Sak (Han Suk-kyu), the previous king’s tailor, is a shoe-in with his penchant for exquisite embroidery and fine detail.  When a young commoner,  Lee Kong-jin (Koo Soo), gets a shot at recreating one the king’s robes that was damaged accidentally and does a wonderful job tailoring it so that it fits even better than before, the new king gives him a job creating new hunting attire.  When this young tailor then turns out a stunning 15 layer gown for the queen, with real artisanship and creativity, his access and place in royal society seem secure.  His masterpiece however upstages the dress worn by the royal concubine, a dress designed by rival Dol-Sak and she swears revenge.  Park Shin-hye, known for her roles in the dramas You’re Beautiful and The Heirs is the young queen.   The costumes are stunning.  In Korean with English subtitles.  (Screens: Tues, March 15, 9 p.m., Alamo and Sat, March 19, 2:20 p.m., New Parkway)

 

France-Is-Our-Mother-Country-still Catherine Dussart Productions

Rithy Panh’s “France is Our Mother Country” is made up entirely of archival footage from Cambodia’s colonial period, 1863 to 1953, when Cambodia was a part of French Indochina, a territory including Laos and Vietnam.  Many images familiar to Westerners evoke grandeur, a construct Panh dispenses with, replacing it with discomfort. The Colonial era was characterized by economic servitude, violent suppression of uprisings and imposition of Western education, culture and values.  Image: CAAM

 

 

France is Our Mother Country (La France est notre patrie) Rithy Panh came to our attention with his spellbinding documentary, The Missing Picture (2013), winner of Un Certain Regard section at Cannes 2013 and an Oscar nominee, which used hand-sculpted clay figures and elaborately crafted dioramas to recreate the brutal suffering of his family and friends at the hands of the Pol Pot regime in the late 1970’s in Cambodia.  His latest exploration of the Cambodian Diaspora, France is our Mother Country (2014), lacks the power of his earlier masterpiece but uses meticulously edited black and white archival footage and antiqued cards to recapture the romance and promise of French Indochine in its heyday, playing with our perceptions of what it was, might it have been and what it evolved into.  What unfolds is a glorious reflection on the clashing of two cultures, one dominating the other and repressing its very imagination and essence, evoking reflection on Western civilization’s Colonial quest, which has always ended tragically.  75 min, in French with English subtitles.  (Screens: Thu, March 17, 9 p.m., Alamo)

CAAMFest Details:

When/Where: CAAMfest 2016 runs March 10-20, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as The Asian Art Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, Slate Bar and SOMAR Bar.

Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events.  Regular screenings and panel discussions are $14 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members.  Special screenings, programs and social events are more.  Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $75 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general.  Click on individual films at CAAMfest website for ticket purchases online.  Tickets may also be purchased in person and at various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day.  Rush Tickets:  If a screening or event has sold all of its available tickets, there is still a chance to get in by waiting in the Rush line. The Rush line will form outside of the venue roughly one hour before the screening is set to begin. Approximately ten minutes prior to screening, empty seats are counted and will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis to those in line.  Cash only and one rush ticket per person and there are no guarantees.

Unpacking the festival: Click here to see full schedule in day by day calendar format with hyperlinks for film and event descriptions and for ticket purchase.  The official website— CAAMFest 2016

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March 10, 2016 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What! You’ve never heard of artist Tyrus Wong? The Asian Art Museum and CAAMFest will honor this living legend starting Wednesday, March 9, 2016

 105 year-young Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong will be honored twice this week─on Wednesday at the Asian Art Museum,, with a public proclamation of “Tyrus Wong Day and on Thursday, at CAAMFest 2016, where his life and art are the subject of Pamela Tom’s Opening Night documentary, “Tyrus.” Image: courtesy Museum of California Design


105 year-young Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong will be honored twice this week─on Wednesday at the Asian Art Museum,, with a public proclamation of “Tyrus Wong Day” and on Thursday, at CAAMFest 2016, where his life and art are the subject of Pamela Tom’s Opening Night documentary, “Tyrus,” which has its Bay Area premiere at the festival.
Image: courtesy Museum of California Design

Unless you caught his wonderful retrospective at the Walt Disney Family Museum two years back, Tyrus Wong is a name that most people can’t place readily. At 105 years young, this pioneering Chinese American artist has touched all of us through his innovative art for films like Rebel Without A Cause and Walt Disney Studio’s classic 1942 animation film Bambi.  Wong’s impressionistic conceptual art grabbed the attention of Walt Disney himself and Wong became essentially responsible for the evocative style that we associate with the beloved Bambi and he created much of the film’s background landscapes.  But that was just the beginning of this exceptional artist’s diverse artistic career as a painter, illustrator, calligrapher, muralist, designer, Hollywood sketch artist, ceramicist, and kite maker.  At 105, he is Americaʼs oldest living Chinese American artist and one of the last remaining artists from the golden age of Disney animation.  On Wednesday, March 9th, at 4:00PM in the Asian Art Museum’s Peterson Room, CAAM (the Center for Asian American Media), the Asian Art Museum and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation will ensure that Wong is long remembered in the Bay Area.  San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar will present a Tyrus Wong Day proclamation in honor of the artist.  The next day, CAAMFest 2016 celebrates Wong on the big screen with the Bay Area premiere of Pamela Tom’s award-winning documentary, Tyrus, selected as the opening night film.

Tyrus Wong’s “Chinese Jesus,” 85 x 75 inches, will be on display to the public for one day only─Thursday, March 10─ at the Asian Art Museum. Tyrus Wong painted the long unidentified artwork for the Chinese Congregational Church in Los Angeles decades ago. The unsigned painting was found in the attic of the Chinese Methodist Church in San Francisco by CAAM board member David Lee. The artwork is in need of restoration and David Lee is mounting a fund-raising campaign to clean and restore it to its original state. The artwork will then be placed in a Bay Area museum. Image: CAAM

Tyrus Wong’s “Chinese Jesus,” 85 x 75 inches, will be on display to the public for one day only─Thursday, March 10─ at the Asian Art Museum. Tyrus Wong painted the long unidentified artwork for the Chinese Congregational Church in Los Angeles decades ago. The unsigned painting was found in the attic of the Chinese Methodist Church in San Francisco by CAAM board member David Lei. The artwork is in need of restoration and David Lee is mounting a fund-raising campaign to clean and restore it to its original state. The artwork will then be placed in a Bay Area museum. Image: CAAM

On Wednesday, Tyrus, will also be signing one of his unidentified large paintings, which had been unattributed for decades, “Chinese Jesus.”  The 85 x 75 inches painting was rediscovered recently by CAAM board member David Lei in the attic of the Chinese Methodist Church in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Wong will be joined by his daughter, Kim, and Tyrus director, Pamela Tom.   The painting will be on display at the Asian Art Museum on Thursday, March 10th, for one day only.  The public is invited to view the signed piece during regular museum hours and during CAAMFest’s Opening Night Gala, which takes place at the Asian that evening at 9:30 p.m., following the screening.

“That it was first in Los Angeles in late 1920’s and made its way here is an amazing discovery,” explained CAAM, Executive Director, Stephen Gong, who spoke with ARThound at the CAAMFest press conference in February.  “This came to our attention some 5 years ago.  Tyrus was in the process of being made and our board member, David Lei, was poking around the Great Star Theatre in Chinatown, looking at old opera scenery backdrops, and his memory was triggered about a painting he had seen as child in a local church of a Jesus that he felt might have been done by the same artist.  He did some research and spoke with scholar Mark Johnson at San Francisco State, who told him that Tyrus Wong was around at the time and might be able to identify the artist.   When Tyrus’ daughter, who was about 80, spoke with him about it, he said it ‘might be’ one of his.   I was flabbergasted.  It took David several months to investigate this.  The next time Tyrus came to town, he brought him to the Jesus painting, which he had found, and it was confirmed.”

Right now, Stephen Gong explained, the painting is “in between lives.”  The Chinese Methodist Church in Chinatown stills owns the painting but they have loaned it to the Asian Art Museum, where CAAM board member, David Lei, is also on the board.  Lei is trying to drum up interest to get it restored and to place it in a Bay Area museum, like the de Young or the Asian.

“Tyrus could well have been a major figure early on, but no Chinese artist in the 1930’s was going to be recognized by the art establishment especially when it wasn’t recognizing West Coast artists of any background, ” added Stephen Gong.

Tyrus Wong's pastel illustrations inspired the style of Walt Disney's classic, "Bambi" and he served as the lead artist for the cherished film.

Tyrus Wong’s pastel illustrations inspired the style of Walt Disney’s classic, “Bambi,” including its lush impressionistic forest. Wong served as the lead artist for the cherished film.

Pamela Tom’s Tyrus opens CAAMFest 2016:  Tom’s emotionally inspiring documentary paints a beautifully intimate portrait of Tyrus Wong, eloquently exploring his childhood arrival at the Angel Island Immigration Station, the evolution of his voice and legacy and the formation of what he views as his greatest achievement, his family.

CAAMFest 2016─an 11 day celebration of Asian-American and Asian film, food, music opens this Thursday, celebrating its 34th year with a program that celebrates and explores the breadth of the Asian and human experience.  This year’s program all things Asian includes no less than 10 world premieres, 23 narrative features, 16 feature documentaries and dozens of other films and thoughtfully-curated events that run for 8 days in various locales in San Francisco and then move on to Oakland for a long final weekend. Learn more about Tyrus and CAAMFest 2016 at www.caamfest.com/2016

Documentary filmmaker Pamela Tom and Tyrus Wong in 2012. Set against a backdrop of immigration, poverty, and racial prejudice, Pamela Tom’s “Tyrus” tells the life story of 105-year-old Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong. Reaching back to 1919, nine-year-old Tyrus and his father leave their village and family in China. Tyrusʼs journey takes him from the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco, where he is detained and interrogated, to earning a scholarship to Otis Art Institute. During his 85-year career as a fine and commercial artist, Tyrus crosses paths with Picasso and Matisse, Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Although his design work was crucial to the animated classic “Bambi” and over 100 live-action movies including “The Music Man,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “The Wild Bunch,” the name Tyrus Wong remains largely unknown. “Tyrus” screens once at CAAMFest 2016 but has secured distributorship and will open later at the theatres in the Bay Area. Image: courtesy CAAM

Documentary filmmaker Pamela Tom and Tyrus Wong in 2012. Set against a backdrop of immigration, poverty, and racial prejudice, Pamela Tom’s “Tyrus” tells the compelling life story of Tyrus Wong. Reaching back to 1919, nine-year-old Tyrus and his father leave their village and family in China. Tyrusʼs journey takes him from the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco, where he is detained and interrogated, to earning a scholarship to Otis Art Institute. During his 85-year career as a fine and commercial artist, Tyrus crosses paths with Picasso and Matisse, Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Although his design work was crucial to the animated classic “Bambi” and over 100 live-action movies including “The Music Man,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “The Wild Bunch,” the name Tyrus Wong remains largely unknown. “Tyrus” screens once at CAAMFest 2016 but has secured distributorship and will open later at the theatres in the Bay Area. Image: courtesy CAAM

 

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment