MOSF 18.4: “Joy Ride” and Asian Pride!

Memoirs of a Superfan, Vol. 18.4: “Joy Ride” and Asian Pride!

by Ravi Chandra. Posted on May 12, 2023.

CAAMFest 2023 kicked last night with Joy Ride, and continues through Sunday, May 21 at locations in San Francisco and Oakland. I highlighted shorts programs in MOSF 18.3, and there are so many more highlights, including Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story, a spotlight on veteran filmmaker Rea Tajiri including her films Strawberry Fields, History and Memory, and Wisdom Gone WildDeann Borshay Liem’s Crossings, Ursula Liang’s Jeanette Lee Vs. (featuring Jeanette Lee in-person!), a dance film fest and live performance at Kapwa Gardens, and Centerpiece films The Accidental Getaway DriverLiquor Store Dreams, and Starring Jerry As Himself. See you in the theater!

I’ve been to around 25 CAAMFest opening nights, and I’ve loved every one of them. Each one of them was unique, a pinnacle in its own way. But Joy Ride. Joy Ride. Joy Ride. Joy Ride dives into all our communal cringes and pulls out comic gold and Asian pride. It’s the kind of film that makes me say “we gonna be alright.” The girls’ (and nonbinary’s) trip from Joy Luck Club to Joy Ride teaches us how to feel, speak and shout joy in that still developing language of Asian American being birthed in our souls.

And the folx in charge of Joy Ride know somethin’ about birthin’ some belly laughs.

I’m not going to have any spoilers in this short post – you’ll just have to get ALL your  friends together and see the film on July 7th when it releases. 2023 is set up to be our real-life Emotional Everything All At Once, where we get to inhabit loss and grief (Past Lives, releasing on June 3), sex, humor, history, and friendship (Joy Ride), and anger, trauma, and real-life, real-time anguish over sexual assault (Beef, and its attendant, unseverable controversy over David Choe’s hurtful words and past actions). The fact that all these movies ring true means only one thing: yes, Virginia, there is an Asian America, and it lives in us.

CAAMFest’s festival and exhibitions director Thúy Trần delivered an impassioned and joyous welcome from the silver screen. She is a giant indeed. Jess Ju, CAAM program associate, is seen on the left. CAAM ED Stephen Gong also welcomed us, and San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu told us he was tipped off not to bring his mom to the movie!

I’ll confess that early on in my training as a psychiatrist, I found “sense of self” kind of hard to grasp. I mean, what is the “self”? People with difficulty with a sense of self can feel empty inside, untethered, easily fraught with difficult emotions, and shaky in identity. Frankly, it all sounded familiar and close to home to me. Identity? Uniqueness? Self-direction? Yikes. How does one have a “clear concept of the characteristics that define you” when those characteristics are not valued? When your thoughts, needs, feelings and identity are dismissed? When you carry around a feeling of not really belonging, of not being accepted or loved?

For a long time, I didn’t have enough inside-out or outside-in to feel like myself, or really like myself, consistently or continuously. I can’t separate that from being an Asian American immigrant raised by a single mother, an “anomaly” as one friend lovingly called me, an Indian American who found himself by throwing himself into the Asian American community, finding solidity there, and then finding how wavy and wavering community and solidity can be.

It took me a while to realize it wasn’t just me.

A scene from “Joy Ride” (2023)

Sense of self relates to a narrative sense of identity, and also an experiential sense of self in one’s body, mind, and feelings. It’s also inherently tied to relationship and belonging. People become people through other people. I am because you are. We are who happens to us and what we make of the happening. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of “who’s” happen in my life, and we’ve made a lot of the happening. But it’s all a work-in-progress. To wit: I did not meet erry single person at the Gala last night, yet I carry that wish, every day. I enjoyed being with everyone I was with, and relished the communal experience of the crowd, but it is a little hard being around all of y’all and not getting one-on-one time with all 1500.

But we went on a Joy Ride together, after years of Fright, Shout, and Hide. Black Americans have named and centered Black joy – and Asian Americans, who often carry around such unnamed weight and who are supposedly more pessimistic than whites have to similarly find and center our own joy as well.

Joy brings us home. Joy reminds us who we are. Joy helps us let go and just be. Enough good belly laughs together, and we just might shake all our shadows.

We can enjoy and welcome each other, and we can enjoy and welcome ourselves. We have gotten such negative messages about ourselves, from history, from media, and from our own families in many cases. But what I know is this – we have been there for each other in the hard times more often than not, especially in these last three years. Even as I say this, I remember all the ways many of us have been isolated in our difficulties. I wish there could be more belonging to go around. But maybe if we can give each other enough joy, we can get there.

On the Opening Night Stage! Ashley Park, Sabrina Wu, Sherry Cola, and Stephanie Hsu.

Joy Ride elevates four fantastic leads (Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu) as they take the epic accidental road trip from the fictional-but-all-too-real White Hills, Washington to China and beyond, transforming friendship and becoming friends through shared difficulty, outrageous humor, plenty of sex, and a whole lot of sight gags, all threaded together with a quest for identity and connection. There’s specific humor for us, inside jokes pushed to the outer limits. The film lands literal knock-out blows to racist a-holes. And finds pleasure in, uhhh… our holes? Sure, why not, go with that.

Hear ye, hear ye! All shame inflicted on holes and Asian American on Asian American sex and desire is summarily dismissed!

Thanks, Adele Lim, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, as director and co-writers! Thanks Ashley, Sherry, Stephanie, and Sabrina! Thanks CAAMfam and CAAMmunity!

Thanks to you all, our secret stash of sense of self is now in erryone’s face! It looks great – and they ain’t seen nothing yet!

Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu, and Ashley Park, stars of “Joy Ride”


Photo by Bob Hsiang, 2022

Ravi Chandra is a psychiatrist, writer, and compassion educator in San Francisco, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. For fourteen years, he was lucky to have his MOSF posts published by the Center for Asian American Media, and is now at work broadening and building a diverse creative community and coalition through reflecting on culture and psychology for East Wind eZine. Sign up for updates here, and see all the posts here. He writes from the metaphorical intersection of The Fillmore and Japantown in San Francisco, where Black and Asian communities have mingled since the end of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He literally works there, between two Indian restaurants, go figure. His debut documentary was named Best Film (Festival Director’s Award) at the 2021 Cannes Independent Film Festival. The Bandaged Place: From AIDS to COVID and Racial Justice is available on-demand, and with the discount code “Awake” you can get a 20% discount. His nonfiction debut, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, won the 2017 Nautilus Silver Award for Religion/Spirituality of Eastern Thought. You can find him on Psychology Today, MediumTwitterFacebook,  Instagram,  YouTube,  SoundCloud, or better yet, in the IRL.

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