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 Awards $400,000 in California Documentary Project Grants


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Jody Sahota

(Oakland, CA), California Humanities is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 California Documentary Project (CDP) grant. This year we have awarded $400,000 to 14 new film, audio and interactive media projects that document vital California subjects and issues. From a film about LGBT refugees and asylum seekers in the Bay Area; to a podcast and radio series exploring questions of race, culture and black identity; to a portrait of the Portuguese American community in California’s Central Valley; to an interactive web-based reflection on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots from the Korean American community’s perspective; each project adds a new layer to a rich and growing portrait of California.

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 audiences through multiple means, including broadcast and podcasts, online, at film festivals and community screenings, in classrooms, at public libraries, and more.

“California Humanities continues to support films and interactive media projects that share stories of California and help us better understand our past, present, and future,” said Julie Fry, President & CEO of California Humanities. “We’re proud to support these 14 new extraordinary projects.”

2017 California Documentary Project Production Grantees:

Project Director: Sam Ball
Sponsor Organization: Citizen Film, Inc.
By presenting the stories of a wide range of civic activists in California and across the US, each striving to build community and affirm a shared “American creed” across deep divides, this documentary film asks:  In a fractured nation, what ideals do we share in common? An accompanying national public engagement campaign seeks to foster meaningful dialogue and exchange across opposing beliefs.

Project Director: Lisa Morehouse
Sponsor Organization: Food and Environment Reporting Network
California Foodways is public radio series that documents stories of food, culture and history county by county throughout the entire state California. New episodes will cover stories from far northern California and the Central Valley.

Project Director: John Jota Leaños
Sponsor Organization: Galeria De La Raza
This multi-platform, half-hour animated documentary and interactive graphic novel traces key moments of colonial California and the making of the West from Native and Latina/o perspectives. The documentary uses cartoons, music and humor to weave an alternative social history of California.

Project Directors: Eugene Yi and Julie Ha
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Free Chol Soo Lee tells the story of a Korean American immigrant wrongfully convicted of a 1973 Chinatown gangland murder, and the activists who form a historic pan-Asian American movement to free him.

Project Director: Grace Lee
Sponsor Organization: Visual Communications
This interactive web documentary is designed to offer new and timely perspective on the 1992 Los Angeles riots, seen specifically through the lens of the experience of LA’s Korean American community. KTWON 92’s launch will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the civil unrest.

Project Director: Midge Costin
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
Making Waves explores the history, art and science of sound in California’s motion picture industry and offers an entry point to understanding the degree to which the human experience is shaped by what we hear.

Project Directors: Hana Baba and Leila Day
Sponsor Organization: Left of Center Art Gallery and Studio
The Stoop is a podcast and radio series produced for San Francisco’s KALW featuring stories about black identity and examining issues of race and culture among African American and African immigrant communities.

Project Director: Jane Greenberg
Sponsor Organization: Interfaze Educational Productions, Inc.
The Surrender of Waymond Hall is an hour-long film exploring questions of race, justice and redemption as a young Oakland man turns himself in to face the consequences of a crime committed a decade earlier.

Project Director: Debbie Lum
Sponsor Organization: Catticus Corporation
TRY HARDER! follows students in their senior year at San Francisco’s iconic Lowell High School, a rigorous, “college-preparatory” public school, where admission is competitive and merit-based, and sheds light on the intense pressures faced by many students in America today.

UNSETTLED: The LGBT Refugee and Asylum Documentary Project
Project Director: Tom Shepard
Sponsor Organization: Tides Foundation
This 90-minute film documents the experiences of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East as they seek resettlement in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Research & Development

Project Director: Renee Tajima-Peña
Sponsor Organization: Regents of the University of California
The Asian Americans is a 6-hour primetime television series produced for PBS that looks at ways in which the Asian experience in California and the United States illuminates the larger American story.

Project Director: David Grabias
Sponsor Organization: Los Angeles Filmforum
This portrait of the Portuguese American community in California’s Central Valley explores the cultural traditions and religious celebrations that help maintain a sense of identity for this farming community coping with an evolving agricultural industry and economy.

Project Director: Alix Blair
Sponsor Organization: San Francisco Film Society
An intimate portrait of political renegade, war hero, environmental champion and ex-Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, who, with his fiery younger wife Helen, continues to defy political expectations at age 89.

Project Director: Sara Terry
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association
As the American dream of home ownership becomes increasingly difficult for many in California, this film explores the last accessible frontier in housing and the changing American stereotype of mobile home parks.

About the California Documentary Project
The California Documentary Project (CDP) is a competitive grants program that supports documentary film, radio, and new media productions that enhance our understanding of California and its cultures, peoples, and histories. Grant amounts range from $10,000 to $50,000. Previous CDP grantees include Last Day of Freedom (2016 Academy Award nominee), The Return (Tribeca Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, POV), The Case Against 8 (Sundance Film Festival, HBO), No Más Bebés (Los Angeles 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).

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



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