Press Releases

Cal Humanities Awards $395,000 in California Documentary Project Grants

March 30, 2015

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Jody Sahota

(San Francisco, CA) Cal Humanities announced today that it will award $395,000 in grants to 15 film, radio, and new media projects through the California Documentary Project (CDP).

The projects—ranging from a young playwright’s reinterpretation of “Romeo and Juliet” set in his Richmond, CA community; to a cultural exploration of the San Diego/Tijuana border-region; to an inside look at the rise of the Vietnamese American-run nail industry—represent a diverse spectrum of the California experience and are slated to reach statewide and national audiences through broadcast and distribution, at film festivals and community screenings, in classrooms, and online.

“Cal Humanities is proud to support these 15 extraordinary film, radio, and new media documentaries,” said Julie Fry, President & CEO of Cal Humanities. “Each adds a new layer to a complex and growing portrait of California. Together, they help us better understand who we are and where we live.”

The California Documentary Project is a competitive grants program of Cal Humanities that has awarded over $4 million since 2003 to projects that enhance our understanding of California, its cultures, peoples, and histories and that explore issues of significance to Californians. Cal Humanities has supported dozens of Sundance, Peabody, Emmy®, and Academy Award®-winning and -nominated documentaries.

California Documentary Project 2015 grant recipients:

Production Grants

ArtBound at the Border 
Director: Juan Devis, Sponsor: KCET
A multi-platform documentary series exploring the arts, culture, and social movements of the San Diego and Tijuana border-region produced for online distribution and television broadcast on KCET and Link TV.

Indians: An Unexpected Story
Director: Chris Eyre, Sponsor: Katahdin Foundation, Inc.
An historical documentary about five individuals—Luther Standing Bear, Carlos Montezuma, Zitkala-Ša, Charles “Chief” Bender, and Ishi—who helped shape our understanding about what it meant to be Native American in the first quarter of the 20th century.

The Intersection: Bay Area at a Crossroads
Director: David Boyer, Sponsor: Independent Arts & Media
A radio documentary series that explores the impact of the current economic boom on the San Francisco Bay Area by producing sound portraits in communities centered around six vastly different street intersections.

Living Condition
Directors: Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman, Sponsor: Bay Area Video Coalition
An interactive, animated web-documentary telling the stories of families with a relative on death row as they grapple with the tragedy and stigma of violent crime, incarceration, and execution.

The Mojave Project
Director: Kim Stringfellow, Sponsor: Pasadena Arts Council
A transmedia documentary exploring the social, cultural, and physical landscape of the Mojave Desert: a vast, seemingly remote region spanning 45,000 square miles that paradoxically is considered one of the world’s most urbanized deserts.

#NailedIt: Vietnamese & the Nail Industry
Director: Adele Free Pham, Sponsor: Third World Newsreel
A chance encounter in 1975 between 20 Vietnamese women and actress Tippi Hedren at a refugee camp in California lead to the founding of the first Vietnamese nail school.  #NailedIt explores the rise and near-dominance of Vietnamese Americans in today’s multibillion-dollar nail industry.

Romeo is Bleeding
Director: Jason Zeldes, Sponsor: San Francisco Film Society
A portrait of life in inner-city America told through the eyes of 23-year-old Donté Clark: poet, playwright, educator, and activist from Richmond, CA. Donté’s latest production is an urban adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet" set among Richmond’s gang-fueled turf wars titled “Te’s Harmony.”

Sanson and Me
Director: Rodrigo Reyes, Sponsor: Media Arts Center San Diego
A coming-of-age story that weaves together the stories of two Mexican immigrants in California’s Central Valley with parallel but starkly contrasting lives: one is a country-boy serving a life sentence for a murder conviction, and the other a middle-class intellectual from Mexico City.

Setting the Word on Fire 
Directors: David Brown & Ray Telles, Sponsor: San Francisco Film Society
A film about the life and works of Alejandro Murguía, from his involvement in the earliest days of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s to his appointment as San Francisco's first Latino Poet Laureate.

United Skates
Directors: Dyana Winkler & Tina Brown, Sponsor: Film Forum, Inc.
This character-driven film explores the rich history and culture of roller skating in African American communities across the United States.

Research & Development Grants

American Veda Documentary Project
Director: Lisa Leeman, Sponsor: International Documentary Association
This multi-platform documentary project explores how precepts and practices from ancient India have influenced American life, from the Transcendentalists to the ’60s counterculture to today's Yoga trend.

In-Between Places
Director: Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz, Sponsor: Independent Arts & Media
A study of migrant farmworker families living in segregated housing communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley that explores how people living in ongoing conditions of veritable statelessness make a home and develop community.  

My Name is Waymond Hall
Director: Jane Greenberg, Sponsor: Interfaze Educational Productions, Inc.
A redemption story of a young black fugitive on the run for a crime he committed a decade ago, this verité documentary follows Way as he wrestles with the excruciating decision to turn himself in and grapples with a criminal justice system accused of discriminating against people just like him.

My Tiger Mom
Director: Debbie Lum, Sponsor: Catticus Corporation
Filmed in the high-pressure setting of competitive high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, this film examines the social, cultural, and gender dynamics behind the stereotype of so-called "Tiger Mothers.” This intimate story asks: what is the price we pay for success and achievement today?

About the California Documentary Project
The California Documentary Project is a competitive grants program that has awarded over $4 million since 2003 to projects that document the California experience. 

About Cal Humanities
Cal Humanities is an independent non-profit and state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. To find out more about Cal Humanities and the projects we support, visit

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