Origin Story Opens A World of Possibilities

It was a night to remember as the Lao community from across the United States gathered to support Lao American creator Kulap Vilaysack in San Francisco for the West Coast premiere of her debut documentary, Origin Story at the acclaimed CAAMFest.

Origin Story enjoyed an auspicious Mother's Day premiere at the Kabuki AMC in San Francisco's Japantown on May 13th. It had been selected as a centerpiece documentary for CAAMFest, and the long-running festival was also showing the work of film-maker Rita Phetmixay. For the multitalented Vilaysack, it was definitely her moment to shine as the community watched her explore her tangled family tree to find out who she truly was, and what it might mean for her family in the future.


It is a documentary without easy answers. When Vilaysack was 14, she took her father’s side in an argument and her mother replied, “Why are you defending him? He’s not your real dad.” Twenty years later, she was finally ready to learn what that meant. The journey took her between Minnesota and California as well as Laos, discovering stories and relatives she had never known before. Origin Story also features the visual art of Lao American creator Nor Sanavongsay, the founder of Sahtu Press, and includes a look at the work of Legacies of War and the Lao American Writers Summit.


A deeply personal story, Origin Story breaks key ground expanding our understanding of the effects of the war in Laos and the journey of Lao refugees rebuilding their lives since. This film probes our deeply-held assumptions about identity and family, conflict, and how we process trauma, all timely and relevant issues that will resonate with many viewers today. Vilaysack navigates difficult emotional and historical territory with tremendous heart and spirit, presenting an uncompromising and stirring work. Origin Story is definitely meant to be seen on the big screen.

Interviewees in her film include members of her extended family, husband Scott Aukerman, and close friends, like Sarah Silverman, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael and Howard Kremer.

At the premiere, audience members consistently saw much of their own family experiences reflected in her film. Origin Story is powerful and necessary, and clearly just the beginning for this talented director. Many of the emerging Lao American film-makers in attendance were already considering how they might share their stories with the world now, thanks to Vilaysack's artful example and the short Q&A that followed after. 

A second screening will take place Saturday, May 19 at 2:10 p.m. at the Roxie Theater (3117 16th St. San Francisco, CA 94103) followed by a closing Q&A with Kulap Vilaysack and Jennifer Chu. 

Origin Story Trailer

Now in its 36th year, CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), celebrates the world’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian film, food, and music programs.  The festival is organized by CAAM (Center for Asian American Media), a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. For more information on CAAM, please visit www.caamedia.org. Tickets are still available at: https://caamfest.com/2018/films/origin-story/



Bryan Thao Worra