CAAMFest 2023: Opening Night with ‘Joy Ride’ & Gala

CAAMFest 2023: Opening Night with ‘Joy Ride’ & Gala

For the first time since the pandemic, CAAMFest (Center for Asian American Media Festival) 2023 went full-tilt for the in-person attendee in San Francisco with the opening night film Joy Ride:

“From the producers of Neighbors and the co-screenwriter of Crazy Rich Asians, JOY RIDE stars Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Oscar® nominee Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu. The hilarious and unapologetically explicit story of identity and self-discovery centers on four unlikely friends who embark on a once-in-a-lifetime international adventure. When Audrey’s (Ashley Park) business trip to Asia goes sideways, she enlists the aid of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her irreverent, childhood best friend who also happens to be a hot mess, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), her college friend turned Chinese soap star, and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s eccentric cousin. Their no-holds-barred, epic experience becomes a journey of bonding, friendship, belonging, and wild debauchery that reveals the universal truth of what it means to know and love who you are.”

After seeing the “red band” (R-rated movie trailer) online of  Joy Ride and seeing the reviews of the film (100% “Fresh” with 13/13 reviews) after its world premiere at South by Southwest earlier this year, I *KNEW* I had to see this film and attend CAAMFest opening night when CAAM announced that ‘Joy Ride’ was going to kickoff the festival.

I was fortunate to make it in time for the red carpet to see the cast upfront, including Academy Award nominated actress Stephanie Hsu!

Cast (from left to right): Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, Ashley Park, and Sabrina Wu.

Introductory Remarks to CAAMFest 2023 Opening Night

The evening began with some welcoming remarks by:

  • Stephen Gong, Executive Director, Center for Asian American Media
  • Jess Ju, Program Associate
  • Thuy Tran, Festival Director of CAAM
  • Cast of ‘Joy Ride’

After that, the film screening began.

Brief Non-Spoiler Review
The film was almost non-stop laughs and gave the audience quite the joy ride, yet there were some also very tender moments. At one point, I even teared up a little. I would describe the film as I had I think read in other reviews as a cross between The Hangover and Bridesmaids and it’s one of raunchiest and funniest comedies I think I’ve seen in the theater in my life. This is definitely not your “model minority” nor ‘Joy Luck Club’ sentimental film, as you will see four Asian American women portrayed on film as you’ve probably not seen ever before. I think the in theater experience of the film with a live audience is a MUST – bring your friends & family (but maybe not your parents, LOL).

Because the audience was laughing so hard, long and often, and because the acoustics in The Castro Theatre aren’t so great, I will definitely have to re-watch the film again opening weekend to catch some of the lines I missed.

I predict this will be the next Crazy Rich Asians, maybe even bigger, in terms of being a box office hit, which would not be surprised since Crazy Rich Asians co-writer Adele Lim directed ‘Joy Ride’ and is included in the writing credits. Though I do wonder if the opening date of Friday, July 7th is ideal given that a lot of people might still be on vacation for July 4th. But like Crazy Rich Asians, I think Joy Ride will have a long run in theaters due to word of mouth.

I definitely plan on trying again to do a ‘Gold Open’ buyout like I did for Crazy Rich Asians, assuming I can get my act together and work out the logistics.

Post Screening Panel and Q&A

I asked the first question which was “How did this film ever get made?” That question solicited some laughter, but I honestly was curious.  Getting a Hollywood studio to back a a comedy lead by ensemble cast of four Asian American women seems kind of daunting. But I’ve been continually amazed at the continued success of Asian and Asian American lead television and film content since Crazy Rich Asians – with Parasite, Squid Game,to more recently Everything Everywhere All at Once and Beef and the upcoming American Born Chinese.

There just seems to be a floodgate of Asian and Asian American quality content being released and accepted. We’re quite in the moment the past few years and starting to be more seen in mainstream media; it feels quite different – and nice.


The CAAMFest opening gala was held again, at the beautiful Asian Art Museum and it did not disappoint.

I had bumped into quite a few people that I had not seen since before the pandemic and a few casually and laughingly welcoming everyone back to the “Asian prom.” The only thing I would say that disappointed me was that some food ran out faster than I had expected, as many went straight from the screening to the gala, while I stayed for the post screening panel and Q&A. But the food was fastastic.

Final Thoughts
I’m always excited when CAAMFest comes around. When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in August of 1999, I eventually came across what CAAMFest was previously known as, (prior to 2013) the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF – quite the mouthful) and couldn’t believe such a film festival existed. I was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, returned there after college, went to graduate school in North Carolina before moving to the Bay Area.

Over the years, I’ve seen some terrific films at the festival including Bend It Like Beckham to documentaries (which I love) like LINSANITY, Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, and An American Story: Norman Mineta. I’ve gotten to meet, know, and see people over the years that I would have never have been able to as well as make new friends and the gala is always fantastic.

 After watching the film, I wanted to see if I could find any online YouTube reaction videos (here and here) and reviews (here and here), and found a few, since there have only been a number of private screenings. Finally, I have to reiterate that Joy Ride is HILARIOUS. I encourage all who are into raunchy comedies to see the film – you *will not* be disappointed.



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