What's in a name? In case of the former San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, plenty.
It is now called CAAMFEST (www.caamfest.com/2013/), the acronym for Center for Asian American Media Festival, ready to roll March 14-24.
The name change, Festival Director Masashi Niwano says, is not cosmetic or a marketing device.
For starters, it eliminates the differentiation between the sponsoring organization (CAAM) and the festival, a situation similar to the relationship between the San Francisco Film Society and its International Film Festival. But there is more to it:
"Last year was the festival's 30th anniversary," Niwano says, "and we wanted to take this time, after celebrating the anniversary, to explore new kinds of programming, to be as relevant and innovative as possible.
"We do that through out film programming, but we have so many more things to offer. For us CAAMFEST is an open canvas, an opportunity to showcase other types of cultural expressions."
It comes down to more musical events, workshops, parties, and food than ever before. The festival catalog groups films with events thematically, for example, "Women in Media" includes feature films, documentaries, presentations and discussions with female directors.
The first film in this group is "Marilou Diaz-Abaya: Filmmaker on a Voyage," about the acclaimed Filipino director who died last year. The documentary will be shown at 2:30 p.m. March 15, in Sundance Kabuki, free to the public.
Other films in the category are Deepa Mehta's "Midnight's Children" (in collaboration with Salman Rushdie, author of the novel about children born at the moment of India's independence), Mira Nair's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (about a Pakistani man's journey from New York on 9/11 to Lahore 10 years later), Nadine Truong’s "Someone I Used to Know" (about the reunion of three school friends in Los Angeles).
"Women in Media" is one of the so-called CAAM Tides; others include "Brave Creators," "Beyond Boundaries" about Korea, Examining Present-Day China, and "Creative Adaptations."
The eclectic "Directions in Sound" series mixes genres wildly in presenting emerging Asian American artists, from electronic pop to new-school hip-hop and beyond. Concerts feature LA's Dengue Fever (1960’s Cambodian pop and psychedelic rock), with lead singer Chhom Nimol; Jhameel, Vinroc, Indian Bastards from Hell (members of Das Racist), and more.
Also, the film "Dosa Hunt," which combines pianist Vijay Iyer, music critic Amrit Singh, and members of Das Racist, Vampire Weekend, Yea-sayer and Neon Indian.
Open canvas, indeed.