The Film

A Chinese immigrant single mother supporting her aging parents, a blind Latina librettist fighting harassment and eviction, a former couple in recovery sharing an SRO to co-parent their son, a graffiti artist ambivalent about painting murals for the tech companies pricing him out of his neighborhood, and a mother on a quest to find her runaway daughter while raising a toddler. Through these vibrant storytellers, HOME IS A HOTEL invites viewers into the invisible world of SROS to witness their perseverance and gain a deeper understanding of the tapestry of stories and citizens that make up an American city.

The Film


Since losing her mother to cancer and her father to the prison system, Jackie’s had to fight for everything she has. At work, she advocates for residents at-risk of losing their housing because she understands how one seemingly small set back can topple everything.
As she submits her application for Section 8, her hope is that her daughter who ran away from foster care might come home if she has a room for her.


Legally blind and fiercely independent, Esther has found a home in the musical community and the Latinx Mission district where she lives in an SRO. Now in her 60s, she turns regret (over leaving an alcoholic husband and three kids in Mexico) into Spanish ballads. With the city under a COVID lockdown, she’s decided to not leave her room. But her disability means she will always need some assistance and can never truly be isolated or safe from infection.


On the street since the age of 16, Sylvester managed to put himself through art school and find housing in a city-subsidized SRO. After a string of high profile mural commissions, Sylvester thought his luck had changed for the better. Then, on a warm September afternoon, the “building bully” provoked him into a fight. Now out on house arrest, Sylvester is looking at a 2nd degree murder charge with a possible 25-year prison sentence.


Leaving behind a comfortable life in China to give her daughter a better future, Christina works two jobs to afford a small room in Chinatown. But after kicking out an abusive husband to protect her child, she is starting anew as a single mom in an SRO. Now supporting her daughter and her aging parents on her own, she dreams of affording a simple two bedroom apartment to make a “proper home” for them all.

Sunbear & Amy

Sunbear and Amy love their son, Marley. He’s the reason they got clean. He’s the reason they still live together in a small SRO, even though they are no longer a couple. Sharing a small space with your ex is hard, but for Marley’s sake, they want, more than anything, to be the best parents they can be.


The Team

Kevin Wong

Director, Producer, Co-Cinematographer

HOME IS A HOTEL is Kevin’s feature debut and was supported by Sundance, SFFilm, and The Center for Asian American Media among others and premiered at the 2023 SF International Film Festival. The short film which inspired HOME IS A HOTEL won several awards including the Loni Ding award for social justice documentary and Best Short Documentary at Cinequest. His other Non-Fiction films have played at festivals across the country including Bigy Sky, SFFilm and Cinequest, and been featured on PBS and in The Washington Post. His narrative films include “Forgetting,” an adaptation of an episode of WNYC’s Radiolab, and “Jus Soli” a Sci-Fi Thriller about immigration and data privacy starring Lynn Chen.

He is a former Sundance Humanities Sustainability Fellow, SFFilm Filmhouse resident, and BAVC Media Maker fellow.

Kar Yin Tham

Co-Director, Producer

Kar Yin Tham is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco and Kuala Lumpur. Working both in narrative and documentary films, she’s helped produce projects that have won awards at film festivals nationally and internationally, including Best Short (Adrift in Sunset) and Best Narrative Feature (Collisions). Kar Yin co-directed and produced Home is a Hotel, which won the audience award for Best Feature Documentary, and the juried award for Best Bay Area Documentary at the 2023 SFFILM Festival. Alongside creative pursuits, she has an established career in the nonprofit sector, most recently as the talent development and diversity, equity, and inclusion lead at a national organization.

Todd Sills

Co-Director, Producer

Todd is a documentary filmmaker and television producer currently based in the Bay Area. Todd directed and produced the short film which inspired HOME IS A HOTEL with Kevin in 2016. Todd produced and co-directed the feature documentary “Red Without Blue,” which received the Audience Award from the Slamdance Film Festival and the Jury Award from the Frameline Film Festival, among others. Before being acquired by the Sundance Channel, “Red Without Blue” screened at film festivals, universities, and museums all around the world, and garnered glowing reviews in the SF Chronicle, the LA Times, the Advocate, the Seattle Times and the Guardian.

Kristina Motwani


Kristina Motwani is an editor, writer, producer and story consultant living and working in San Francisco. She is the 2021 Sundance Jonathan Oppenheim Edit Award recipient, 2021 IFF Boston Karen Schmeer Excellence in Documentary Editing award winner, a 2019 DOCNYC 40 under 40 honoree, a 2018 SFFilm Film House Resident and was a 2017 BAVC National MediaMaker Fellow. Her work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca, SXSW, SFFilm festival and more, and has been seen on PBS, Netflix and the World Channel. She has been nominated for a regional Emmy award and received awards from the SF Press Club, the Tellys and the Society for Professional Journalism.

Seng Chen


Cinematographer Seng Chen is a Singapore-born, Minnesota-raised, Chinese American filmmaker based in Oakland, California. With a background in still photography, he is the former photo director at Hyphen magazine, and has continued to develop his eye for composition and heart for story working on independent films such as Ursula Liang’s documentary 9-Man (PBS America Reframed) and Jennifer Phang’s film Advantageous (Sundance, Netflix).

Susannah Smith

Associate Editor

Susannah Smith is a documentary filmmaker, editor, artist, and curator with a focus on place-based storytelling. Recent work includes directing and producing the Untitled Thao Nguyen Doc (in production); We Belong (in post production), a feature doc about the Lexington Club, SF’s iconic queer bar; Assistant Editor on Homeroom, Nassima, and the Untitled 19th* Film, as well as Creative Directing installations and film discussions with SF Urban Film Fest at YBCA and Sundance Film Festival 2021. Her films have been featured at festivals and online, including at SFFILM, Q-films Long Beach, Bernal Heights Outdoor Film Festival, SF Streetsblog, and at universities, including King’s College London and UC Berkeley. She was a 2018 BAVC National MediaMaker Fellow.

Catherine Joy


Catherine recently won Best Documentary Score for the uplifting feature documentary Gold Balls and scored the documentary Naughty Books (Hulu) which resulted in an ASCAP Composers Choice Award nomination. Other recent scoring projects include, Potato Dreams Of America (SXSW 2021) and Prognosis: Notes on Living about the final journey of Oscar-winning social justice filmmaker Debra Chasnoff. Catherine was also the score producer and lead orchestrator on the Oscar-nominated score for Minari.

Sasha Hauswald

Consulting Producer

Sasha serves under the Secretary of Business, Consumer Services and Housing, as a Gubernatorial appointee, overseeing loan and grant programs funding affordable housing rehabilitation and construction throughout California.  Earlier in her career, she worked for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development on housing legislation and program design, and there, she initially became involved with efforts to provide services to tenants and to invest in rehabilitating aging SRO’s.

Sasha comes to the documentary with a personal connection to SROs as well as a passion for housing policy. Sasha’s grandmother and great-grandmother both lived in San Francisco SROs to escape homelessness and poverty from the 1920’s to 40’s.