CAAMfest preview

I’ve screened four features – two narratives and two documentaries – that will screen next month at CAAMFest. Unlike my recommendations for the Mostly British Film Festival, these are all new movies that haven’t yet been shown commercially in the Bay Area.

B+ The Tiger Hunter

This well-made fish-out-of-water comedy stars Danny Pudi of Community as a young engineer, newly arrived from India and lost in Chicago. When a promised job falls through, he ends up in a small apartment with 13 other engineers, all working in menial jobs. The story is set in 1979, and improvements in microwave oven technology play a major part in the story. First-time feature director Lena Khan creates a tale sufficiently funny and heartwarming to make you ignore the obvious fact that it’s completely predictable. The title refers, not to Pudi’s engineer, but to his heroic father.

  • Castro, Thursday, March 9, 7:00. Opening night screening.

B Bitcoin Heist

This crime thriller from Vietnam has more fake-outs and plot twists than a season of Sherlock. A police detective, hunting for a massively dangerous cybercrook, loses her badge after a disastrous stakeout. Still determined to bring in the bad guy, she gathers a bunch of talented but not-always-legal collaborators to find the big bad guy and reclaim his fortune in bitcoins. Some of her gang are endearing, and the movie provides a good share of suspense and humor. But pay attention; it’s almost impossible to completely follow Bitcoin Heist.

Is this an Asian American film? No. But CAAMFest also screens a few Asian films.

B- Resistance at Tule Lake

This conventionally-made documentary tells an important American story, and one that many people want to brush off. When the US government incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, many rebelled against unlawful captivity. Those viewed as “disloyal” were sent to Tule Lake, turning that camp into a center of resistance. Told with old footage, some simple CGI, and survivors talking about their past, Resistance tells the story of those who objected to being imprisoned for the crime of their birth. It also describes the methods, including intimidation, restriction of medical supplies, and torture, used to make them shut up.

  • Roxie, Saturday, March 11, at 12:10 in the afternoon

C Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

In the aftermath of 2008’s economic meltdown, only one American bank was brought to court on felony charges. Abacus, a small, family-owned institution serving New York’s Chinatown, was clearly not too big to fail…or jail. Steve James’ lackluster documentary barely mentions the big banks, and sticks to the little guy’s story. Chairman Thomas Sung views himself as George Bailey (of It’s a Wonderful Life), while the government wants to take his bank down. James made the excellent Hoop Dreams and Life Itself, but he couldn’t find comparable drama in a rather dull story about bank loans and legalese.