Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

2018 California Documentary Project Awards Announced!

California Humanities is pleased to announce $302,000 in awards to 14 new film, audio and interactive media projects through the 2018 California Documentary Project (CDP) grant program. From a film highlighting the origins of the disability rights movement; to a radio series examining the social and economic impact of drought in California’s Central Valley; to a portrait of 89-year-old political renegade and ex-California Congressman Pete McCloskey; to a project exploring the lives of Mexican-born Mixtec, Zapotec and Purépecha teens in Oxnard; to stories from California’s Asian American immigrant communities; each project adds a new layer to a rich and complex portrait of California’s cultures, peoples and histories.

The California Documentary Project supports high-quality humanities-based media projects that seek to document California in all its complexity. Since 2003, we have awarded over $5 million to film, audio and interactive media productions that inform and engage broad statewide and national audiences through multiple means, including but not limited to broadcast and podcasts, online, at film festivals and community screenings, in classrooms, at public libraries, and more.

Congratulations to the 2018 California Documentary Project grantees and thank you to all who applied.

2018 Production Grants Awarded

Project Director: Harry Chuck
Organization: Cameron House
Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, between 1965 and 1985 a young film student from San Francisco Chinatown documented his community’s struggles for self-determination. Now forty-five years later, this unreleased film material uncovers the history of a community in transition and reveals the perspectives of young Chinatown residents on the front lines of the Asian-American movement.

Project Director: Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham
Organization: Center for Independent Documentary
From a 1970s ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers to the birth of disability rights activism in Berkeley, Crip Camp traces the emergence of a new and powerful movement towards inclusion. The 90 minute film is told from the point of view of former camper Jim LeBrecht who, with a group of other young people with disabilities, relocated to Berkeley in the 1970s and went on to spark a revolution for the disabled.

Project Director: Sarah Craig
Organization: Sustainable Markets Foundation
This multimedia radio, photography and interactive project documents stories of climate migration due to drought as groundwater levels continue to drop in in many areas of California’s Central Valley. This project will tell the stories of people who are left without water or without work, and explore how water stress begets instability and reflects historical patterns of migration and inequality.

Project Director: Juan Devis
Organization: KCET
Artbound is KCET’s award-winning multi-platform journalism program dedicated to exploring cultural issues reflective of California’s diverse and complex communities. The series brings humanities-based content and analysis to each documentary by exploring the intersections of art, culture, history, society and geography. The documentaries are supported with online content that is varied and topical with a constant stream of videos and supporting articles published on the Artbound website.

Project Director: Bryan Gibel
Organization: International Documentary Association
96-year-old Betty Reid Soskin is America’s oldest park ranger, famous for defying old age and tirelessly advocating for civil rights in California. In the 1960s and ‘70s Betty was also a singer/songwriter with a voice like Billie Holiday. Four decades later, this film follows Betty as she teams up with composer Marcus Shelby and a young band to perform new arrangements of her songs, sparking an autobiographical journey through the black experience by three generations of California musicians.

Project Director: Charlotte Mangin
Organization: The Futuro Media Group
Honoring the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020, UNLADYLIKE is a multimedia series featuring unsung American “s/heroes” from the early years of feminism. Through 31 five-minute animated documentary shorts for each day of Women’s History Month, the series profiles female trailblazers from the Progressive Era who changed America, including five powerful Californians: a desegregation activist, botanist, newspaper editor, painter, and polar explorer. Through community and educational outreach and online distribution, the series will offer audiences a nuanced, inclusive understanding of women’s history and the role these Californians played in it.

Project Directors: Alix Bair
Organization: San Francisco Film Society
Untitled McCloskey Project is a feature documentary about the unconventional relationship between Helen, a passionately independent 63-year-old woman, and her husband Pete McCloskey, an iconic California Republican Congressman thirty years her senior. Told from Helen’s perspective, this film captures a fiery political couple forced to evaluate their contribution to American politics and explores the burdens a public spotlight puts on private lives.

Project Director: Robin Rosenthal
Organization: International Documentary Association
This documentary explores the lives and experiences of Mexican-born Mixtec, Zapotec and Purépecha teens living in Oxnard, the Strawberry Capital of the World. The film takes an intimate look at the unique challenges they face, both individually and together, as they navigate economic necessity, access to higher education, cultural preservation, and the social and environmental justice needs of their indigenous farmworker community.

Project Directors: Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett
Organization: International Media Project
This podcast and live performance series produced in partnership with LightHouse Center for the Blind examines the world through our ears instead of our eyes. The sound-focused format will explore the lives and experiences of visually impaired people living in California, and with them as guides, will gather recordings and create evocative soundscapes that will be featured on public radio, in a touring performance, and in an archive, allowing anyone to listen to what California sounded like in 2018.

Research & Development Grants Awarded

Project Director: Cathy R. Fischer
Organization: The Film Collaborative
The 3G Tattoo Project is a character-driven film featuring three individuals who have made the provocative decision to tattoo their grandparents’ concentration camp numbers on their own bodies. The film explores questions about the reenactment of trauma, healing, and historical remembrance as an essential part of engaging with the critical social issues of today.

Project Directors: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Helen Hood Scheer
Organization: The Film Collaborative
Body Parts is a documentary film exploring the female body as the site of a cultural battle in Hollywood media. Interweaving film and television clips with reenactments and interviews, this essay film traces how the female body––from pre-production through distribution–– is the locus of fraught, often public, negotiation.

Project Director: Sam Feder
Organization: International Documentary Association
At a time of increasing visibility for trans characters and actors in the media, this film explores and analyzes Hollywood’s role in creating and perpetuating historical stereotypes of trans people and images. Through interviews with actors and scholars and with illuminating excerpts from popular film and television, Disclosure will deconstruct and critique stubbornly persistent tropes and highlight occasional breakthroughs in which trans creatives take control.

Project Director: Kathy Huang
Organization: Catticus Corporation
When an American-born filmmaker looks into her estranged uncle’s political past in Taiwan, she uncovers a tale of corruption, political intrigue, and a host of family secrets. Her uncle, living in exile in Orange County, is the key to understanding a family history that her immigrant Taiwanese parents always avoided talking about.

Project Director: Erica Mu
Organization: Visual Communications
Radius is a podcast series that illuminates the contours of Asian American identity. Dealing with topics from the mundane to mayhem, the series visits parachute kids, the American Air Force, the Chinese Army, refugees in Orange County, restaurateurs, wedding crashers, and more, to shed light on the Asian American experience through powerful narrative stories. Through immersive, documentary-style storytelling, Radius carefully humanizes Asian American journeys, from Asia, to California, and back.


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