Press Releases

Cal Humanities Announces 2012 California Documentary Project Grants to Filmmakers

May 10, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO -- Cal Humanities announced the awardees of its current round of funding for its California Documentary Project program, which encourages film and radio documentarians to explore issues and stories of critical importance to California. Cal Humanities has awarded $400,000 to 17 projects, for production and research and development representing a variety of film, new media and radio projects.

The production projects comprise a broad range of topics and approaches that will appeal to a wide range of audiences—from a biography of photographer Dorothea Lange to a radio series exploring the social and economic issues facing rural California; from the struggle of recyclers in Oakland’s Dogtown neighborhood, to the fight by Northern California’s Yurok tribe to preserve its cultural practices. Research and development projects also offer a promising array of subjects, including Khmer Rouge survivor and Academy Award-winning actor, Haing Ngor; the changing role of the public library; and a new, in-depth look at the rise and fall of the American Communist Party.

The California Documentary Project (CDP) is a competitive grant program that supports the research and development, production, and public engagement stages of film, radio, and new media projects that document the California experience and explore issues of significance to Californians. Projects must approach subject matter from a humanities perspective; enhance our understanding of California and its cultures, peoples and histories; and be suitable for California and national audiences. The intent of the CDP is to increase access to, understanding of, and awareness of the public humanities through the support of documentary media productions.


Production Grants Awarded include:

Adios Amor-The Search for Maria Moreno (film)
Sponsor: Chicana/Latina Foundation
Grant amount: $40,000

Maria Moreno was an under-recognized organizer who put almost everything at risk to fight for migrant farm workers’ rights fifty years ago. This one-hour documentary interweaves the filmmaker's quest to find out more about Maria with a journey through California's agricultural belt and historical archives. Through a little documented migrant mother's life, Adios Amor tells a story about the struggle of migrant workers, while exploring the question of whose lives are remembered by history.

Another California: Loggers, Hippies and Immigrants in the State's Small Towns (radio)
Sponsor: Center for Media Change, Inc.
Grant Amount: $35,000

California’s small towns developed around the economies that built our state—mining, logging, oil drilling, agriculture—but as these industries change or disappear, how will these towns survive? Another California is an audio documentary and multi-media project featuring voices and stories from California’s small towns as they grapple with change. Through short feature stories airing on KQED’s California Report, an hour-long documentary, and an interactive website, this project will explore issues that are often overshadowed by those of California's urban and political centers.

California Indians: We're Still Here (new media)
Sponsor: The California Museum
Grant amount: $15,000

California Indians: We’re Still Here will record, contextualize, and deliver by podcast and web-based video oral histories of individuals from California’s 150 plus Native tribes. Produced in conjunction with The California Museum’s recently opened gallery, “California Indians: Making a Difference,” the program will highlight the survival and contemporary achievements of the state’s Native peoples and work to challenge pervasive stereotypes.

Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (film)
Sponsor: Katahdin Foundation, Inc.
Grant Amount: $50,000

Dorothea Lange’s iconic photographs have come to define critical eras of American history—the Great Depression, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the unprecedented growth and change of postwar society. This 90-minute documentary will incorporate new scholarship and previously unseen archival materials to explore Lange’s life, work, and mark on history. Directed by Lange's granddaughter, Grab a Hunk of Lightning will be broadcast nationally on the PBS series American Masters in 2013.

John Brown's Body at San Quentin Prison (film)
Sponsor: William James Association
Grant amount: $44,000

In 2002, after three years of work, a group of primarily African American inmates at San Quentin Prison staged a performance of John Brown's Body, an epic poem about race, slavery, freedom, and the Civil War. Ten years later, John Brown's Body at San Quentin Prison revisits the participants and reflects on questions of race, justice, and incarceration. The hour-long film will follow former inmates as they reenter society, as well as those who are still in prison.

Line in the Sand (film)
Sponsor: San Francisco Film Society
Grant amount: $40,000

For members of California’s Yurok, Hoopa, and Karuk tribes, the 1973 confrontation between federal authorities and members of the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee, South Dakota was a pivotal event in the resurgence of tribal culture and pride. Now, almost 40 years later, Line in the Sand will explore the legacy of Wounded Knee and examine its role in guiding Northern California tribes’ efforts to retain and restore cultural and environmental practices.

Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful (film)
Sponsor: Center for Independent Documentary
Grant amount: $30,000

Keiko Fukuda is 98 years old and the highest-ranked woman in judo’s history. Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful is a one-hour film highlighting the unique details of Fukuda’s life—her introduction to judo in 1934, life in Tokyo during World War II, participation in the 1964 Olympics, immigration to the United States, and many years of teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area—while also examining her defiance of stereotypes and culturally-defined roles for women.

Redemption (film)
Sponsor: San Francisco Film Society
Grant amount: $44,000

For a number of residents in Dogtown, one of Oakland’s poorest neighborhoods, income from collecting and recycling others’ trash is a primary source of income. To other residents, however, recycling only adds to the dirt and noise in the community. Redemption is an 80-minute film that explores the complex dynamics of race, class, and systemic poverty as it tells the story of four recyclers who struggle to survive in a neighborhood already decimated by unemployment, addiction, and violence.

Siqueiros: Walls of Passion (film)
Sponsor: From the Heart Productions, Inc.
Grant amount: $20,000

In the 1930s, the controversial mural “América Tropical" on Los Angeles’ Olvera Street was whitewashed over for its political content and its artist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, was deported from the country. Siqueiros: Walls of Passion is a one-hour documentary about the life and work of Siqueiros and tells how, as the whitewash faded in the 1960 and 1970s, “América Tropical" became a symbolic inspiration for the growing Chicano Movement.

Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema at UCLA (film)
Sponsor: Media Arts Center San Diego
Grant amount: $20,000

Spirits of Rebellion documents the lives and work of a small group of critically acclaimed, but relatively unknown group of Black filmmakers and media artists known as the Los Angeles Rebellion. Formed while students at UCLA and inspired by the social, political, and cultural dynamics of 1970s Los Angeles, the group was the first sustained movement in the United States by a collective of minority filmmakers to represent, reflect upon, and enrich the day-to-day lives of people in their own communities.

A Wild Woman Sings the Blues (radio)
Sponsor: The Harry Bridges Project
Grant Amount: $20,000

A Wild Woman Sings the Blues is a one-hour radio documentary about singer, songwriter, activist, and impresario Barbara Dane. Closely associated with the Los Angeles and San Francisco folk and blues communities, her story reflects the integral role music has played in American social and protest movements since the 1950s.

Research & Development projects awarded funding include:

American Reds: The Failed Revolution (film)
Sponsor: Catticus Corporation
Grant Amount: $7,000

American Reds: the Failed Revolution is a 90-minute television documentary examining the history, significance, and decline of the Communist Party USA. Funding is requested to research California subject matter, such as the Party’s efforts to unionize San Joaquin Valley cotton workers in 1933, its role in Upton Sinclair’s run for governor in 1934, and the San Francisco general strike of 1934.

Free For All: Inside the Public Library (film)
Sponsor: Video Veracity, Inc.
Grant Amount: $7,000

Free For All is a feature-length documentary that will chronicle a year inside a busy urban public library, San Francisco Public Library. With public libraries around California and the nation facing drastic budget cuts and closures, the film investigates why Americans today are using their libraries more than ever before and assesses the high stakes for democracy if public libraries become extinct.

The Haing S. Ngor Film Project  (film)
Sponsor: Dr. Haing S. Ngor Foundation
Grant Amount: $7,000

Long Beach is home to the largest population of Cambodians outside Cambodia. Yet, stories about this immigrant group in our state's history are relatively untold. To help fill this gap, The Haing S. Ngor Film Project will examine the life and experiences of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, a Khmer Rouge prison survivor who escaped to Los Angeles and unexpectedly won an Oscar for his role in The Killing Fields.

Marked for Life (new media)
Sponsor: Center for Independent Documentary
Grant Amount: $7,000

Marked for Life is a series of web-based documentary shorts that examines the challenges gang-affiliated youth face to change direction and become contributing members of a society that long ago gave up on them.  From a young father trying to get himself removed from a gang injunction; to a single mother balancing sobriety, parenting and her new job as a farmer's market manager; to a parolee who is gradually removing his gang tattoos, the project will document the difficult process of leaving street life behind.

Memories to Light: Filipino American Home Movies (new media)
Sponsor: Center for Asian American Media
Grant Amount: $7,000

Memories to Light: Filipino American Home Movies is a participatory transmedia initiative utilizing digital and social media, public engagement, interactive communal screenings, curated programs, web streaming, and a digital archive. Funding is requested to consult with humanities advisors with specialized expertise in Filipino American history and culture to further develop the project’s social and historical context.

Tales of California: Briggs, Bryant, Homophobia and the Coming Pandemic (new media)
Sponsor: International Documentary Association
Grant Amount: $7,000

Tales of California will record and contextualize first-person accounts of the 1970-1982 "Golden Age" of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experiences in California. Framed by the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and the advent of the AIDS crisis, this digital humanities project will produce video vignettes weaving together oral histories with LGBT Californians who shaped the era and archival footage as it traces the evolution of the movement from protest to celebration to tragedy.

In addition, three previously funded projects were awarded Public Engagement grants to extend the reach and impact of their Cal Humanities-supported media projects by supporting further dissemination and public engagement activities.

Claiming the Title
Sponsor: San Francisco Film Society
Grant Amount: $10,000

Claiming the Title is a half-hour documentary film that tells the story of the US Supreme Court battle over a California athletic group’s right to hold a “Gay Olympics.”  With the recent enactment of the California FAIR Education Act (SB 48) that mandates that public schools integrate “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans,” the project will develop standards-aligned curricula and an educational DVD version intended for use in 11th and 12th grade history and government classes. The materials will be targeted to the state’s roughly 1,800 high schools and address issues of equal rights, civics, and the workings of the Supreme Court.

Seeking Asian Female
Sponsor: Catticus Corporation
Grant Amount: $10,000

Seeking Asian Female explores the dynamics of cross-cultural relationships through a very personal tale about love, migration, and “yellow fever.”  The proposed engagement activities represent the preliminary stage of a more extensive campaign that aims to launch a national dialogue about race and gender, dismantle stereotypes, and strengthen and build communities invested in pluralism and multicultural understanding.  Primary activities include the development of web-based resources such as online contributions from Asian American and women’s studies scholars, webisodes that provide additional context, and a series of focused test screenings and discussions that will help determine how to frame future activities for the most impact.

Squeezebox Stories
Sponsor: Arhoolie Foundation
Grant Amount: $10,000

Squeezebox Stories is a sound-rich, narrative-driven radio documentary that explores the social history and musical variation of the “ambassador of multiculturalism”: the accordion. With a primary goal to engage audiences beyond public radio listeners in a reflexive and collaborative learning process, public engagement activities include the development of an interactive companion website containing user-generated and repurposed audio content, educational curriculum and participatory workshops, and targeted distribution. Engagement partners include 826 Valencia, UC Berkeley, the California Association for Music Education, the Arhoolie Foundation, and the National Accordion Association.

Guidelines for the next round of grant applications to the California Documentary Project will be posted in July 2012, and the deadline for submission will be October 1, 2012.

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