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

California Humanities Announces Awardees of 2019 California Documentary Project Grants


14 Grantees Will Receive $350,000 for Production, Research & Development

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Claudia Leung,, 415.391.1474 x303

April 18, 2019

(Oakland, CA) — After a highly competitive process, California Humanities is pleased to announce $350,000 in awards to 14 new projects through the 2019 California Documentary Project grants. Ten of the awards are for Production Grants, and four are for Research and Development Grants.

The California Documentary Project (CDP) is a competitive grant program that supports the research and development and production stages of film, audio, and digital media projects that seek to document California in all its complexity. Projects use the humanities to provide context, depth and perspective and reach and engage broad audiences through multiple means, including but not limited to radio and television broadcasts, podcasts, online distribution and interactive media, community screenings and discussions, in classrooms and libraries, at cultural centers, film festivals, and beyond. Research and Development Grants provide up to $10,000 and Production Grants up to $50,000 for awarded projects. Since 2003, California Humanities has awarded almost $5.5 million to media projects through the CDP grant program.

This year, ten Production Grants totaling $310,000 and four Research and Development Grants totaling $40,000 are awarded in support of documentary projects from independent filmmakers, podcasters, and public media organizations that shed light on current California issues, untold histories, and creative futures. From a film series exploring California’s central role in shaping Asian American history, to a podcast documenting the political legacy of former Governor Jerry Brown, to films that tell the stories of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians’ efforts to reclaim their tribal lands, the return of the 1970’s all-female rock band Fanny, the Los Angeles Dressmakers Strike of 1933, and more—each adds a new layer to a complex and growing portrait of California.

“The projects we are supporting through this year’s California Documentary Project grants represent the richness and range of our state and its people,” said Julie Fry, President & CEO of California Humanities. “We had such a large number of excellent proposals submitted and are pleased to be able to offer support to these fourteen deserving applicants. Once completed, each of these projects will help us better understand who we are and where we live.”


The Asian Americans
Sponsor Organization: Center for Asian American Media
Project Director: Donald Young

The Asian Americans is a public media initiative that examines ways in which the US Asian experience illuminates the larger American story. With California figuring centrally in the narrative, the series will explore the role Asian Americans have played in the evolution of American identity in the context of migration, diversity, and global connectedness.

Coming Round: The Kashia Pomo Struggle for Homeland
Sponsor Organization: Fort Ross Conservancy
Project Director: J Mitchell Johnson

Coming Round chronicles the unique history of California’s Kashia Pomo tribe. In their creation story, the Kashia walked from the ocean onto solid ground 12,000 years ago at Danaka (now Stewart’s Point, CA).  Now, more than 150 years after being forcibly removed, the Kashia are unexpectedly regaining access and ownership to their tribal lands and setting a model for other displaced Native American tribes.  

Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Project Director: Sam Feder

Disclosure is an unprecedented look at Hollywood’s role in creating and perpetuating historical stereotypes of trans people. More than 100 years of footage from A Florida Enchantment (1914) to Pose (2018) is woven together with the personal stories of prominent media figures like Laverne Cox, revealing how Hollywood has simultaneously reflected and manufactured our deepest anxieties about gender.

FANNY: The Right to Rock
Sponsor Organization: Moving Train Inc.
Project Director: Bobbi Jo Hart

Part road trip, part inquiry, part political, social, and cultural mirror, FANNY: The Right to Rock reveals the untold story of the California band Fanny, the first all-women band to release an LP with a major record label (Warner Music/1970). Founded by Filipina sisters June & Jean Millington and adored by David Bowie, the groundbreaking impact of these women of color has been lost in the mists of time… until now.

Fruits of Labor/La Bendita Fresa
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Project Director: Emily Cohen Ibañez

Fruits of Labor is a portrait of Ashley, a seasonal strawberry picker and factory worker in California, who dreams of graduating from high school and going to college. But in this coming-of-age tale, tensions build as Ashley’s family struggles with poverty and the threat of family separation due to increased deportations in her community.

Living in the Layers: Upending Ageism in the Golden State
Sponsor Organization: International Media Project
Project Director: Tina Antolini

Living in the Layers is an audio series that takes on one of the most socially accepted forms of prejudice: ageism. By combining narrative storytelling with elders’ audio diaries, the project challenges the stereotypes that plague many Californians over age 65, the state’s fastest growing demographic.

Sponsor Organization:
Intersection for the Arts
Project Directors:
Meklit Hadero

Movement is a podcast and live show that tells stories of global migration through music. Hosted by Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero, it features the stories of an LA-based Indian-American Grammy-nominated songwriter, an undocumented singer in San Francisco on a long-awaited trip back to Mexico, and more, blending songs and stories in a meditation on what it means to be American.

Return to Oaxacalifornia
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Project Director: Trisha Ziff

Return to Oaxacalifornia tells the story of three generations of one Mexican American family over 25 years and reflects on the complexity of transnational migration between Mexico and the US. Set in Fresno, California, the film explores questions of family and assimilation, what remains important and what is lost.

Untitled Dwarfism Project
Sponsor Organization: Women Make Movies Inc.
Project Director: Julie Wyman

Untitled Dwarfism Project follows filmmaker Julie Wyman’s personal exploration of dwarfism in her family during a moment when genetic research is promising new pharmaceutical treatments for dwarfism.

Untitled Oral History of Jerry Brown’s California Political Career
Sponsor Organization: KQED
Director: Scott Shafer

Through exclusive interviews with former Governor Jerry Brown, KQED political journalists will produce a series of programs for radio broadcast and podcast that weave Brown’s reflections on his experiences as California’s longest-serving governor with context and insight from journalists, scholars, and peers.


Acting Like Women: Performance Art and The Woman’s Building
Sponsor Organization: Chimaera Project
Project Director:
Cheri Gaulke

Acting Like Women revisits the California feminist art movement of the 1970s and examines its influence on today’s art and social movements. The film will focus on the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles as an incubator for new art forms and practices and as a model and inspiration for women artists all over the country.

The Dressmaker Strike of 1933
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Project Director:
Mylene Moreno

The Dressmaker Strike of 1933 documents a little-known strike during the Great Depression by Mexicana women that brought the downtown Los Angeles garment industry to a halt. The film will bring hidden voices and perspectives in California history to life and situate the strikers at the center of a pivotal year for labor activism throughout California’s fields and factories.

On the Edge of Tomorrow
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Project Director:
William Versaci

On the Edge of Tomorrow examines the confluence of people, environment, and technology that enabled modern architecture to develop in Southern California in the first half of the 20th century. Through the stories of the architects, their clients, and an experimental building industry, the film focuses on the participants and their roles as much as the buildings themselves.

Third Act
Sponsor Organization:
LTSC Community Development Corporation
Project Director:
Tadashi Nakamura

Third Act is a look into the life and work of pioneering filmmaker Robert A. Nakamura, considered the “Godfather of Asian American media,” as he reflects on his 50-year career and the psychological wounds from his family’s incarceration during WWII. Told by his son Tadashi, the film examines questions of trauma, memory, and historical amnesia.


California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, promotes the humanities—focused on ideas, conversation and learning—as relevant, meaningful ways to understand the human condition and connect us to each other in order to help strengthen California. California Humanities has provided grants and programs across the state since 1975. To learn more, visit or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Related Articles

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.