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

A woman stands on a stage under a spotlight. She is singing into a mic, smiling, and her arm is outstretched.

Congratulations to the 2019 California Documentary Project Grant Awardees

What do former Governor Jerry Brown, Northern California’s Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, and Fanny, the 1970’s all-women rock’n’roll band from Sacramento (of whom Bowie was a fan) all have in common? They’re just a few of the subjects and stories explored by the newest round of films and podcasts awarded 2019 California Documentary Project grants.

California Humanities is pleased to have awarded $350,000 in support of 14 new documentary media projects from independent filmmakers, podcasters, and public media organizations that shed light on current California issues, untold histories, and creative futures.

These new projects join an accomplished and award-winning group of previous California Humanities-supported productions, including the recent documentary films United Skates, Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno, and Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin; podcasts and radio series California Foodways and The Stoop; and interactive and transmedia documentaries such as K-TOWN ‘92 and The Mojave Project.

Since 2003, California Humanities has awarded almost $5.5 million to media projects that document California in all its complexity. The projects we’ve funded reach and engage broad audiences statewide, nationally, and internationally, at community screenings and discussions, in classrooms and libraries, at film festivals and cultural centers, online, on radio and television, and beyond.



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
Project 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.

See the full list of funded California Documentary Projects here. 


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