4 Must-See Documentaries at CAAMFest 2015

CAAMFest 2015 is now in full swing, but you still have a week left of the festival to catch these four excellent documentaries. Don’t miss out!

(Movie descriptions from the CAAMFest website)

The Last Season

Still from the movie The Last SeasonAmidst Central Oregon’s seasonal hunt for the rare matsutake mushroom, a Cambodian freedom fighter and refugee, an ailing elderly Vietnam vet and his wife form a new family. The two former soldiers’ friendship is cemented by their shared painful experiences of war in Southeast Asia.

Competing in CAAMFest’s Documentary Competition, The Last Season is not only the best at this year’s festival, it’s one of the most moving documentaries I’ve watched in a long time. It compels with its emotive power and dazzles with its lush, Pacific Northwest landscape. Whatever you do, don’t miss this quiet film about an unlikely friendship. The first showing may already have passed, but you still have one more chance to see it at Sundance Kabuki on Wednesday, March 18, at 5:10 pm.


Still from the movie JalananA rare look at the vibrant subculture of Jakarta’s street buskers, JALANAN offers fascinating and occasionally heartbreaking insight into Indonesian urban life. The camera captures the beauty and risks of street life as Titi, Ho and Boni struggle to make a living with their music through prison and personal tragedies.

As part of CAAMFest’s CinemAsia showcase, Jalanan is one of the festival’s most polished and well-produced documentaries. The film’s music (mostly original pieces written and performed by the buskers themselves) add an enjoyable component to this fascinating look into the lives of these three Jakartans. There’s only one screening remaining: Tuesday, March 17, at 5:10 pm, Sundance Kabuki.

Top Spin

Still from the movie Top SpinDreaming to represent the United States in the 2012 London Olympics, Ariel, Lily and Michael face a lot more than just training and competing in the intense sport of table tennis. They’re all on a journey to get the “top spin,” balancing their teenage lives while focusing on the sport.

Not all documentaries are serious, and Top Spin is a great light-hearted look into the world of competitive ping pong. Films about driven young people are always sure to delight. As an added bonus, both Ariel and Lily are Bay Area products–maybe you even know them (or at least have seen them from afar)! Top Spin is also competing in the festival’s Documentary Competition. The first showing on Saturday was so popular it went to rush, so get your tickets for the remaining showing early. It will be at Oakland’s New Parkway Theater on the last day of the festival: Sunday, March 22, at 12:30 pm.

Tough Love

Still from the movie Tough LoveFilmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal’s documentary follows two parents as they navigate the American child welfare system to reunite their families. The parents work through their individual situations, which include a harrowing maze of conferences, advocates, attorneys and court hearings, all while trying to prove they should be reunited with their children.

It’s difficult for a film not to take a stance on a social issue, but Tough Love navigates that thin line with grace. This final recommendation is also in competition, so my prediction is it’ll be quite the tight race this year. (Unfortunately, I don’t have time to volunteer this festival, else I’d be helping to count ballots again.) If you hurry, you can catch this afternoon’s showing at 4:30 pm (Sunday, March 15). Otherwise, you have another chance on Tuesday, March 17, at 8:50 pm. Both showings are at New People Cinema.