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CAAMfest film, Americanish

CAAMFest 2021 Celebrates Asian American Heritage

In an apt marking of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and in a year when Asian Americans have been targeted for widespread violence, The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) brings us a film festival celebrating the richness and diversity of the Asian and Asian American experience. “Now, more than ever, the power of storytelling is vital to the health and happiness of our diverse communities,” says Stephen Gong, executive director of CAAM.

Slated for May 13-23, the 11-day festival brings us a robust array of live, virtual and on-demand film screenings, continuing its trajectory of storytelling and conversation with a schedule of over 50 events, including screenings, panels, and live performances. 

“The world may have paused due to the pandemic, but our filmmakers didn’t,” says Masashi Niwano, festival and exhibitions director at CAAM. “The vibrancy and energy of this year’s programming are unmatched with our filmmakers bravely telling their unique and vital stories.”

This year, South Asian directors take center stage at the festival with provocative, bold new works. 

The powerful Closing Night film:

Americanish

Film: Americanish
Film: Americanish

Directed by Iman Zawahry 

Sunday, May 23, 5:00 p.m.

Welcome to America: Where dreams come true…ish. In Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, two career-driven sisters (Maryam and Sam) and their newly-immigrated cousin (Ameera) must navigate the consistent — and sometimes conflicting — demands of romance, culture, work, and family. Serving both as a lighthearted reimagination of and critical divergence from the classic romantic comedy, Americanish tackles and celebrates the complex intersectionality of womanhood by welcoming us into the world — with all its joys and tribulations — of these three marriage-aged women. Americanish meditates on the sometimes inevitable tension that arises between competing societal and cultural norms, or between personal obligations and ambitions, with a fresh perspective, weaving from it a story that is unconventional, funny, and heartwarming.

White Elephant 

Film: White Elephant
Film: White Elephant

Directed by Andrew Chung

On demand

Pooja is an Indian Canadian teenager trapped between two worlds and doesn’t have anyone she can rely on. She’s from a minority neighborhood and struggles to fit in her high school where everybody’s idea of fun is limited to one eatery. Pooja finds escape through movies, and fantasizes about love and along comes Trevor, a White heartthrob she instantly falls for. Her infatuation doesn’t last when conflicts arise from a clash of cultures. Undeterred from her pitfalls, Pooja manages to find renewed confidence through adversity.

This coming-of-age story deals with the angst and frustrations of high school and blends it with the immigrant experience with a 90’s flair. 

Because We Are Girls

Film: Because We Are Girls

Directed by Baljit Sangra

On demand

A heartbreaking secret emerges for an Indo-Candian family: a relative sexually abused three of the sisters for years.   

After nearly two decades of silence, we meet sisters Jeeti, Kira, and Salakshana Pooni, now adults, at the end of their court case against their abuser. Director Baljit Sangra deftly captures the emotional journey the women face not just navigating the justice system but confronting their family for standing by while the abuse happened.        

The film explores the impact of the sexual abuse of three sisters in a traditional Punjabi family and shines a light on the nuances of gendered violence and the cultural systems that reinforce and perpetuate the trauma of abuse.

Have You Forgotten Me (short accompanying Because We Are Girls)

Film: Have You Forgotten Me?
Film: Have You Forgotten Me?

Directed by Baljit Sangra

On demand

This emotionally compelling short shines a light on North American’s oldest running Sikh Temple and the struggle it represents.

With offerings for everyone from media makers to film lovers to those interested in Asian and Asian American representation, the festival brings us unique voices highlighting the intersections of community. 

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Check out the full lineup at: CAAMFest.com

General admission tickets for virtual screenings and panels range from complimentary to $15. Drive-In Experience ranges from $45-$50. 


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: [email protected]