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

Collage of photos from five CDP projects.

The California Documentary Project in 2023: New Grants, New Stories, New Perspectives

Above: From bottom left: NO STRAIGHT LINES (2021), FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK (2021), A PRAYER FOR SALMON (2023), SANSÓN AND ME (2022), OVARIAN PSYCOS (2016).

As we approach this year’s November 1 California Documentary Project (CDP) grant deadline, we want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and highlight some of our grantees’ accomplishments and accolades. It was a year full of new grants, new audiences, and new perspectives. We want to congratulate all our CDP grantees for continuing to bring insight and deepened understanding to some of the most important and challenging subjects of our times. We also want to thank our many partners for helping us bring these CDP films, podcasts, and digital media projects to new and growing audiences throughout the state. 


For over 45 years, California Humanities has been the leading funder of documentaries by, for, and about Californians and we continue to provide catalytic support for high-quality humanities-based film, audio, and digital media productions through the CDP grant program. We were pleased to make a record 18 new CDP Production and R&D grants in 2023. From documentaries on the godfather of Chicano theater and film, Luis Valdez; the 1956 congressional campaign that sent the first Asian American to the U.S. Congress; and a group of Marine veterans’ struggles to return to civilian life; to a podcast series that aims to shift societal norms around California’s stuttering community, this year’s projects will continue to bring our state’s many stories to audiences throughout the nation.  

Black and white photo of man shaking hands with another man wearing a scout uniform. US Capitol in the background.

Congressman Dalip Singh Saund greets two of his constituents from Corona and Riverside, CA in front of the U.S. Capitol, 1957.
Courtesy of SAUND VS. COCHRAN (2023 CDP grantee project).

Still from 2023 CDP grantee project AMERICAN SONS.
Courtesy of AMERICAN SONS.

Four people stand on a farm, with vilm camera in the foreground.

CDP NextGen is designed to nurture California’s next generation of documentary storytellers and amplify a broad range of young Californians’ perspectives on subjects important to their lives and communities. We’ve awarded six new NextGen grants so far in 2023, with projects ranging from a media training program for Native youth, to a look at the influence of pop culture on young people’s identities, to a production and media literacy program for system-engaged youth in San Diego. Our next CDP NextGen grant deadline is September 15.  

Collage of 4 CDP NextGen projects.
CDP NextGen projects, clockwise from top left: Girls’ Voices Now, CMAC Youth Voices, Native Youth Take Action Media Workshop, and Emerging Makers at Second Chance.


Several CDP-supported documentary films had national broadcast premieres in 2023, including FREE CHOL SOO LEE on the PBS series Independent Lens and I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE on PBS’ POV. MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND, FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK, NO STRAIGHT LINES: THE RISE OF QUEER COMICS, and FIRE ON THE HILL also aired to national audiences on PBS. Finally, SANSÓN AND ME, the CDP-supported film from director Rodrigo Reyes, will air nationally on Independent Lens on September 19, 2023.   

Trailer for SANSÓN AND ME, supported by the CDP program.

A PRAYER FOR SALMON, a new audio documentary series from The Spiritual Edge podcast that tells the story of the Winnemem Wintu people and their clash with Northern California’s Shasta Dam launched in March, with excerpts airing statewide on KQED’s California Report. DEEP ROUTES, an audio-based collaboration between Los Angeles’ Metro Art and community radio and arts foundation dublab, launched its second season in May 2023. The series explores the city’s cultural and musical histories and the built environment along major transit lines. Finally, PORT OF ENTRY (CDP 2022), a podcast series from San Diego’s KPBS that tells transborder stories for transborder audiences, launched this summer with episodes released in both Spanish and English.

Trailer for the podcast, A PRAYER FOR SALMON, supported by the CDP program.

SFFILM Film Festival hosted the premieres of HOME IS A HOTEL, a new documentary about residents living in San Francisco’s Single Room Occupancy hotels and the struggle to stay housed in one of the most expensive cities in the country, and SOL IN THE GARDEN, a film that explores gardening as a tool for healing for the formerly incarcerated. Finally, HOW TO HAVE AN AMERICAN BABY had its West Coast premiere at SF DocFest and will air nationally on the PBS Series POV in December. 

Trailer for the documentary, HOME IS A HOTEL, supported by the CDP program.


A woman wearing an orange shirt and black cardigan stands in a room surrounded by people sitting at long tables
A still from BLACK MOTHERS LOVE & RESIST, a documentary that premiered in 2022 and screened in Los Angeles in February 2023 as part of The Pan African Film & Arts Festival.

As part of our new and expanded California Documentary Project screening series, we helped bring more grantees’ films to new and underserved audiences throughout the state. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts we co-presented screenings and discussions of films such as MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND, ADIOS AMOR: THE SEARCH FOR MARIA MORENO, SONG OF SALT, NO STRAIGHT LINES: THE RISE OF QUEER COMICS, and CHINATOWN RISING for campus and community audiences in Riverside, San Diego, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and more. We also partnered with the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento to co-present a curated monthly screening series featuring CDP-supported films MIJA, UNITED SKATES, and OVARIAN PSYCOS, attended by the filmmakers and film participants. As we continue to expand the CDP series to include more films and screening partners, we look forward to connecting with audiences throughout the state this fall—keep an eye out for announcements of upcoming screenings in your area. 

Group of people pose in front of a movie screen inside a screening room.

Students stand with MAKING WAVES filmmakers Midge Costin and Bobette Buster at a UCR Arts screening on April 21, 2023.
Photo by Nikolay Maslov. 

“Psycos” Magally Miranda (left) and Andi Xoch, special guests at the Crocker Museum screening of OVARIAN PSYCOS on August 17, 2023.
Photo by John Lightfoot.

Two people pose in front of entrance to Crocker Museum


We invite applications for the next round of CDP grants in support of film, audio, or digital media projects that document California subjects and issues; use the humanities to provide context, depth, and perspective; and have the potential to reach and engage audiences statewide and nationally.  

Funding is available in two categories: 

  • Research and Development Grants up to $15,000  
  • Production Grants up to $50,000 

This year’s application deadline is November 1, 2023, 5 pm PT. 

Visit the California Documentary Project  grants page for guidelines, application instructions, a list of previously awarded projects, and to register for a free informational webinar on September 21, 2023 at 10 am PT.  

For more information, contact Director of Media & Journalism Programs, John Lightfoot at  


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