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 $350K to 13 California Documentary Projects for Production, Research & Development

The Black Resurgents Boogaloo Originals

April 26, 2021
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Cherie Hill, Communications Manager, 
Image / Photo courtesy of The Black Resurgents

(Oakland, CA)—California Humanities is pleased to announce $350,000 in awards to 13 new film and podcast productions through the 2021 California Documentary Project grant program. 

The California Documentary Project (CDP) grant program supports humanities-based media productions that seek to document California in all its complexity. Since 2003, California Humanities has awarded over $6.5 million to projects that use the humanities to provide context, depth, and perspective; enhance our understanding of California and its cultures, peoples, and histories; and reach and engage statewide and national audiences through broadcasts, festivals, community screenings, and in classrooms, libraries and more.  

This year, nine CDP Production Grants and four Research and Development Grants will support nonfiction films and podcasts that tell essential and timely California stories from around the state. These newly funded CDP projects uncover, interpret, and share the stories of California and Californians. From a film about the 1960s origins of an unrenowned pioneering street dance subculture in Oakland, to a podcast series that documents the impact of the recent Santa Cruz Mountain wildfires, to a film exploring the role of new wave music in shaping identity among Vietnamese refugees in Orange Countyeach project adds a new layer to a complex and growing portrait of the state. Together, the awarded projects help us better understand who we are and where we live. 

California Humanities’ President & CEO Julie Fry states, “We are grateful to have received so many applications and know that California is full of important stories that illustrate the diversity and richness of our state. We congratulate our newest grantees, knowing that the voices amplified by these grants will grow our collective understanding of the people and cultures of California.”   

California Documentary Projects Awarded in 2021 

CDP Production Grants: 

Project Director: Débora Souza Silva 
Sponsor Organization: Center for Independent Documentary 

BLACK MOTHERS is the first feature-length documentary to examine the Mothers of the Movement, a growing, nationwide network of mothers whose children have been victims of racial violence. With unprecedented access, the film follows women’s journeys who work to disrupt the cycle of violence, including Wanda Johnson. A California mother, she channels the pain of the murder of her child, Oscar Grant, into organizing for justice and accountability. 

Project Director: Spencer Wilkinson 
Sponsor Organization: Higher Gliffs 

BOOGALOO ORIGINALS explores the pioneering, yet little-known, subculture of California street dancing that emerged out of Oakland in the 1960s. Told through the lives of the original practitioners, boogaloo’s 50-year history is detailed from its rise during the civil rights era, to its co-evolution with funk music, and then its decline with the advent of hip-hop, and finally to the current upswell in revival efforts. 

Project Director: Eli Welbourne 
Sponsor Organization: Future Roots Inc. 
DEEP ROUTES is a collaboration between Los Angeles’ Metro Art and dublab radio that explores the relationship between the city’s cultural and musical histories and the built environment, specifically major transit lines. Drawing upon LA’s transit topographies as a guiding framework, DEEP ROUTES uses music to tell stories of creative resilience and marginalized communities and cultures that are overlooked or excluded from mainstream historical narratives. 

Project Director: Reid Davenport 
Sponsor Organization: Through My Lens  

Spurred by a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker connects the ostensibly antiquated institution of the Freak Show with his own life. I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE is a film shot entirely from the filmmaker’s literal physical perspective, both from his wheelchair and his two feet. As he explores the public’s gaze, his sense of home, and lost love, he ultimately wonders if the very act of filming his personal life perpetuates the legacy of freakdom. 

Project Director: Nikki Silva 
Sponsor Organization: The Kitchen Sisters Productions 

In the aftermath of the devastating 2020 CZU August Lightning Fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Kitchen Sisters produce a series of audio stories on multiple platformsThey will document this historic natural disaster, its impact on the region and its people, and how it reflects a much larger California and global story. 

Project Director: Isabel Castro 
Sponsor Organization: International Documentary Association 

Raised in an undocumented family in San Bernardino, 26-year-old Doris Muñoz longed for a Chincanx sound in independent music. In college, she took matters into her own hands and decided to become a music manager. Set against the backdrop of aggressive anti-immigration policy and a music industry in crisis, MIJA tells the story of a young Chicana woman discovering herself and carving out a space for her culture. 

Project Director: Elizabeth Ai 
Sponsor Organization: Women Make Movies 

NEW WAVE tells the story of how a little-known music scene that started in Orange County spread throughout the Vietnamese diaspora in the 1980s. The film explores how the confluence of mass Vietnamese immigration and the influence of new wave music helped build community and identity among refugee youth. 

Project Directors: Colin Rosemont and Sandra Hernandez 
Sponsor Organization: Film Independent 

This documentary bears witness to the Tejon Indian Tribe’s complex struggle to reclaim cultural heritage, spirituality, and tribal sovereignty. The film follows co-director Sandra Hernandez, an enrolled member and elected official of the Tejon Indian Tribe, as she forges a path through government agencies, museum institutions, and academia to revitalize the Kitanemuk language, repatriate artifacts, and strengthen the foundational core of her family and community. 

Project Director: Deborah Craig 
Sponsor Organization: Center for Independent Documentary 

SALLY is a portrait of Sally Gearhart, a good Southern girl who then helped transform the world for women and queer people. She co-founded the first-ever women studies program, wrote firebrand lesbian-feminist works and female-focused fantasy novels, established a utopian women’s land community in Northern California, and battled for gay rights side-by-side with Harvey Milk in the 1970s. But how did a poster child of the LGBTQ rights movement end up living alone in the woods, virtually forgotten by history? 

CDP Research & Development Grants: 

Project Director: Juan Devis 
Sponsor Organization: Public Media Group of Southern California 

This one-hour documentary with short-form multi-platform content explores the history and legacy of the Federal Art Project, an early New Deal program started in 1935. Throughout its eight-year history, the program funded 10,000 visual artists who created long-lasting public artworks across the United States. The project will examine the impact of the work on our current cultural identity nationally and throughout California. 

Project Director: Ray Telles 
Sponsor Organization: Paradigm Productions 

HANDS ON THE VINES examines Mexican immigrant vineyard workers and their struggles to become successful winemakers in the context of an intensely competitive wine industry. The documentary traces the saga of one family whose patriarch, Lupe Maldonado, first arrived in the Napa Valley as a bracero in the 1960s. With the help of his son and daughter-in-law, they eventually produce prize-winning wine from their own vineyard. 

Project Director: Marissa Ortega-Welch 
Sponsor Organization: KALW/San Francisco Unified School District 

Wilderness as we know it is changing. From climate change impacting the land to smartphones keeping us constantly connected, wilderness is no longer a place to unplug in a land untouched by humans. In this podcast series, listeners will visit public lands to explore the concept of wilderness, its history, how it’s changing, and how the stories we tell about wilderness say a lot more about us than the land. 

Project Director: Isaac Artenstein 
Sponsor Organization: San Diego Historical Society dba San Diego History Center 

REVOLUTION AT OUR DOORSTEP is the first documentary film to examine a 1911 conflict on the U.S.-Mexico border that was pivotal at the outset of the Mexican Revolution. The Baja California campaign that culminated with the Battle of Tijuana is a clear example of how the history, culture, and people of Mexico and Southern California have always been closely linked. 

Learn more about the California Documentary Project Grant Program here. 

About California Humanities:
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 people 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 like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



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