California Humanities is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 California Documentary Project (CDP) grant. This year we have awarded $391,500 to 15 film, radio, and new media productions that reflect a diverse range of topics and issues, ranging from a deeply personal look at the power of positive mentorship in stemming the school to prison pipeline; to the unexpected stories of Compton, California’s African American cowboys; to the phenomenon of “birth tourism” in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley; to a multimedia project documenting the stories of people and communities effected by climate migration due to drought in California’s Central Valley.

Since 2003, we have awarded over $4.5 million to film, radio, and new media projects that document vital California subjects and issues and that reach and engage statewide and national audiences through broadcast and distribution, at film festivals and community screenings, in classrooms and online.

Congratulations to the 2016 grantees!


Production Grants

The Pushouts
Project Director: Sharon Tiller, Sponsor: Center for Investigative Reporting

The Pushouts tells the story of once gang-involved teen and now celebrated University of California professor Victor Rios, examining the role positive mentorship can play in disrupting the school to prison pipeline.

Lost L.A.
Project Director: Hugh McHarg, Sponsor: University of Southern California

Lost L.A., a co-production of USC Libraries and KCETLink, explores hidden and all-but lost aspects of Southern California’s environmental and social history, including the origins of iconic locations like Dodger Stadium, downtown Los Angeles, its freeway system, and the now-paved-over canals of Venice.

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
Project Director: David Lalé, Sponsor: Hartley Film Foundation

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life documents the rise and fall of Synanon, a drug and alcohol recovery-based alternative community founded in 1970’s Los Angeles. Through interviews with former members the film delves deeply into the idea of community and California’s role as an epicenter of social experimentation.

How to Have an American Baby
Project Director: Leslie Tai, Sponsor: From the Heart Productions, Inc.

How to Have an American Baby examines the phenomenon of “birth tourism” in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley. Set primarily in a community known in parts of China as “the City of Big-bellied Women,” the film tells the stories of Chinese women who travel to the U.S. to give birth in order to obtain US citizenship for their babies and the “baby hotels” that accommodate them.

Oscar Zeta Acosta: The Brown Buffalo
Project Director: Phillip Rodriguez, Sponsor: CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California

Oscar Zeta Acosta: The Brown Buffalo documents the life and legacy of the Chicano writer, lawyer, and activist who has best been remembered in popular culture for his fictionalized depiction as Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s classic novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The Specialist
Project Director: Casey Miner, Sponsor: Bay Area Video Coalition

The Specialist is a radio series and podcast examining the changing nature of work as told through the experiences of the people doing the labor. The series reveals hidden stories of essential though behind-the-scenes jobs and examines the impact of a labor market that increasingly employs people for part-time, contract-based work.

Curse of the Mutant Heirloom
Project Directors: Debra Schaffner and Julie Wyman, Sponsor: Women Make Movies, Inc.

Curse of the Mutant Heirloom tells the story of women who have been diagnosed with the BRCA genetic mutation, or a hereditary predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer. Through the experiences BRCA “previvors”, the film addresses issues of health, gender, and the ethical questions raised by medicine’s increasing capabilities.

Fire on The Hill
Project Director: Brett Fallentine, Sponsor: Creative Visions Foundation

Fire on The Hill tells the unexpected story of Compton, California’s African American cowboys and the fight to preserve their community and stable, one of the last remaining vestiges of the Old West in modern day Los Angeles.

Chasing Voices: J.P. Harrington and the Revival of Native Languages
Project Director: Daniel Golding, Sponsor: Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival

Chasing Voices: J.P. Harrington and the Revival of Native Languages is a documentary film about the Native American language revitalization movement and the anthropologist who in the early 1900s created an invaluable archive by recording many of the last Native American language speakers.

Diamond Diplomacy: U.S. Japan Relations Through a Shared Love of Baseball (film)
Project Director: Yuriko Romer, Sponsor: Center for Independent Documentary

Diamond Diplomacy: U.S. Japan Relations Through a Shared Love of Baseball documents the complex cultural and political relationship between the United States and Japan, as seen through both countries’ long and intertwined history of baseball.

No Straight Lines: 4 Decades of Queer Comics
Project Director: Vivian Kleiman, Sponsor: Catticus Corporation

No Straight Lines chronicles the story of LGBTQ comics and provides a unique window into the hopes, fears, and fantasies of LGBTQ people through four decades, from Stonewall, to the AIDS crisis, to same sex marriage.

Research & Development Grants

Project Director: John Jota Leaños, Sponsor: Galeria De La Raza

¡Eureka! is a half-hour animated documentary and interactive graphic novel that uses cartoons, music, and humor to weave an alternative social history of California, tracing key moments of colonial California and the making of the West from Native and Latina/o perspectives.

Free Chol Soo Lee
Project Directors: Eugene Yi and Julie Ha, Sponsor: The K.W. Lee Center for Leadership

Free Chol Soo Lee explores the little-known story of Korean American Chol Soo Lee, whose wrongful conviction of a 1973 murder sparked the first pan-Asian American social justice movement. More than 40 years later, the film looks at the legacy of this case and its role in forging a community.

Leaving the Dust
Project Director: Zoë Meyer, Sponsor: Sustainable Markets Foundation

Leaving the Dust is a multimedia project that documents stories of climate migration due to drought in California, looking at the human stories behind the statistics and exploring the role environmental conditions play in patterns of instability and displacement throughout the Central Valley.

Living in the Shadows of Serra
Project Director: Nanobah Becker, Sponsor: Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous People

Living in the Shadows of Serra explores the complex relationship between California Native Nations and the Mission System, as contemporary descendants of the Acjachemen people and others reflect on the legacy of Junipero Serra.

Previous CDP grantees include Last Day of Freedom (2016 Academy Award nominee), The Return (San Francisco International Film Festival, POV), The Case Against 8 (Sundance Film Festival, HBO), No Más Bebés (Los Angeles International Film Festival, Independent Lens), We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco (Sundance Film Festival, Independent Lens), and Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (American Masters).

For information about the next round of the California Documentary Project grant program, please click HERE.