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BAYCAT's 2023 Wrapped




It’s that time of the year again, and we have a special gift for you! BAYCAT staff put together our top film and TV recommendations for the year, with additional media recs that didn’t fit neatly into those categories for extra goodies. As always, we strive to emphasize media that is breaking new ground in its depictions of BIPOC, the queer community, and women.


 

FILM RECOMMENDATIONS



A Thousand and One


A Thousand and One chronicles the life of a single mother, Inez, and her son, Terry, who she kidnaps out of foster care in Harlem in the 1990s and 2000s, and what they must do to survive the rapidly changing New York City landscape due to gentrification. The film juxtaposes Inez and Terry’s evolution against the city's transformation, which shaped not only their relationships with and to each other, but also to the city. Writer-director A.V. Rockwell uses her own experiences and that of other young Black women and mothers coming up in New York City in the late 1990s to weave together a beautiful story grounded in the lived experiences of many young Black women. This film is an important document in exploring the complexities and the humanity of young Black mothers. -Charlena Wynn (they/them), Associate Director of Education


 

The (Almost) Legends


Set in a colorful small town in Sinaloa, two rival half brothers meet again to honor their dad's memory in a car rally full of adrenaline and banda music. The playful characters and the commitment to camp in set design, costumes, and props make this a quirky and heartwarming film which inspires visually as much as it does musically. The (Almost) Legends is a gem of contemporary Mexican cinema directed by Ricardo Castro Velazquez. -Naomi Garcia-Pasmanick (she/her), Media Producer & Mentor


 

Origin


Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and writer Isabel Wilkerson finds the connective tissue between the experiences of oppressed people, revealing how caste and its brutal hierarchy imposes disconnection within the human experience. In the midst of concerning political events here in the States, threats rolling back progress we've made to liberate those historically oppressed in the US, and the unveiling of human rights horrors around the globe, this film met me where I am at, grappling with fears, ethics, and honoring and making space for others in our chaotic and often transactional world. Ava DuVernay defies a single form, weaving together dramatic, documentary, and experimental techniques to produce an experience that both centers and transcends traditional narrative. -Laura Gomez-Mesquita (she/her), Executive Co-Director


 

I'm a Virgo


I'm a Virgo is the coming-of-age joyride of Cootie, a 13-foot-tall man who escapes to experience the beauty and contradictions of the real world. He forms friendships, finds love, navigates awkward situations, and encounters his idol, The Hero. The film is beautifully shot throughout Oakland and deals with themes of growing up in a society rife with contradictions and confusion. Watching Cootie figure out how to navigate it through his own lens was fun and enlightening. -DeVron Randle (he/him), Videographer & Production Technician


 

The Creator


As a future war between the human race and artificial intelligence rages on, ex-special forces agent Joshua is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, the elusive architect of advanced AI. The Creator has developed a mysterious weapon that has the power to end the war and all of mankind. As Joshua and his team of elite operatives venture into enemy-occupied territory, they soon discover the world-ending weapon is actually an AI in the form of a young child.


This film has a diverse cast, makes an homage to VFX, and was also filmed with a consumer grade camera (The Sony Fx3) which shows that it's not about the tool; it's how you use it! Accessibility in filmmaking is an ever growing challenge with new technology, but this film is an awesome example of a new creative film concept in an age where stories are currently being somewhat "recycled." -Deidre Locklear (she/her), Creative Producer


 

Joyride


This INCREDIBLE comedy directed by Adele Lim, and written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao stars Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu with many more star studded appearances by more of my faves, like Daniel Dae Kim and Ronny Chieng. It was the opening night film for CAAMFest, and I still howl, laugh, and cry after watching it three times already. Now it's streaming on the plane, for all those who might be in the air as you read this! It's a MUST SEE raunchy, hilarious, heartfelt movie that weaves in everything about Asian identities, stereotypes, and truly finding out who your true peeps are. -Villy Wang (she/they), President, Founder, & CEO


 

Fremont


Iranian-British director Babak Jalali's Fremont is a stunning portrait of loneliness that knows no borders. Donya is a former Afghan translator for the US military who now works in a San Francisco fortune cookie factory, "desperate for a dream." Actress Anaita Wali Zada, herself a former journalist in Afghanistan, lends a wry performance to the film that just barely masks her anger and longing simmering beneath the surface.


Shot throughout the Bay Area, Fremont joins the ranks of other prestige Bay Area indies like Sorry to Bother You, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Earth Mama. The gorgeous black and white cinematography makes this feel like a film out of time, and the quirky cast delights with cameos from Boots Riley (I'm a Virgo) and Jeremy Allen White (The Bear). In a moment where superhero films abound, Fremont's discerning study of the refugee experience, infused with a quiet melancholy and Jarmuschian wit, is an ode to indie's past that I didn't know I needed. -Sierra Lee (she/her), Associate Development Director


 


TV RECOMMENDATIONS



Ramy


The dramedy series created by comedian Ramy Youssef follows first generation Egyptian-American Ramy Hassan (Youssef) and his family as they navigate spirituality in their politically divided New Jersey neighborhood. I love how the writing in the show reveals the nuanced perspectives of people in the diaspora so well (and at times painfully so). The episode “Egyptian Cigarettes” brought the story to occupied Palestine, where Ramy’s efforts to attend a business meeting (after a failed Tinder date) are obstructed by checkpoints and lead to a dark comedy of errors. The episode was filmed with a predominantly Palestinian crew and Palestinian guest actors, and it was powerful to see a heart wrenching story from their point of view. This season was technically released in 2022, but given the ongoing genocide in Palestine, I think it’s a timely watch. -Reese Fernandez (they/she/he), Grants & Donor Communications Coordinator 


 

Reservation Dogs


We said "so long" to the Rez Dogs this year with the third and final season of Taika Waititi's and Sterlin Harjo's groundbreaking TV series. Reservation Dogs was my 2022 BAYCAT recommendation, and this season, though bittersweet, did not disappoint.


As the four Rez Dogs face the reality of what comes next in a post-high school future, each must consider who they want to be in relationship to their community and chosen family. Episodes alternate between the present and past, diving deep into the histories of some of the beloved elder characters. Episode 3, "Deer Lady," illuminates the horrors of the Indian Boarding School system and is a particular standout, though not for the faint of heart


Shot on location in Oklahoma with a Native cast, crew, and writers room, Reservation Dogs is a beacon for what is possible for Native and other diverse stories. -Sierra Lee (she/her), Associate Development Director


 

EXTRA GOODIES

We couldn’t resist going beyond film and television recommendations this year. Here are a few standout stories from other mediums as an extra treat!



Scamfluencers


Scamfluencers is a weekly podcast about modern-day scams and, to quote the podcast network Wondery, "the power of influence." This podcast resonated with me because I learn valuable, preventative lessons from stories about fraud. And considering men dominate media about white-collar crime, I admire that the two co-hosts are women of color. The blend of their witty banter, captivating narration, and intriguing soundscapes make this podcast stand out. -John-Paul Mackey (he/him),  Academy Coordinator


 

Worlds Beyond Number


The format of this podcast may be a role-playing game, but at the heart of it is storytelling at its finest. Centered around three young friends discovering who they are to themselves, each other, and to the greater world, the team creates a beautiful and engrossing multi-layered universe similar to that of a Studio Ghibli film. If you’re familiar with Dimension 20’s D&D gameplay, you probably already know that Aabria Iyengar, Brennan Lee-Mulligan, Erika Ishii, and Lou Wilson are top-notch improvisers who bring the absolute best, and the sound effects and scoring wrap everything up so that it actually feels like you’ve been transported to their fantasy world. -Reese Fernandez (they/she/he), Grants & Donor Communications Coordinator

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