Ten filmmakers were awarded a grant Tuesday to produce a mini-documentary about the central San Joaquin Valley as a new way to show the richness of the region’s people and history.
The winners will be mentored by Sascha Rice, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and granddaughter of former Gov. Pat Brown.
The $5,000 grants came from the Central Valley Community Foundation and Bank of America as part of a contest called The Big Tell: Undiscovered Stories from the Central Valley. Out of 85 applicants, 10 were chosen to move forward with their storyboard to create a three-to-five-minute documentary about life in the region.
Six out of the10 winners arrived at the foundation’s offices on Tuesday afternoon to hear the good news from foundation CEO Ashley Swearengin, and to meet Rice. The filmmaker will be on hand for one-on-one advice until the deadline on Oct. 3.
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The Big Tell Showcase will screen all 10 mini-documentaries on Oct. 20 at the Warnor’s Theatre, which will be free to the public, said Swearengin, Fresno’s former mayor.
Rice said there was an overwhelming response to the contest, which means the film industry is making its way to the central San Joaquin Valley in a big way. “The Central Valley is home to a rich tapestry of California stories,” she said.
Although participants do not have to live in the Valley, their films must be of significance to the counties of Fresno, Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Kings or Tulare. Some filmmakers teamed up with organizations to tell their stories, said Swearengin.
Jose Muñoz, one of the winners, initially wanted his film to be about folklorico and its history. “But I think that’s more than the five-minute limit for this competition,” he said. So he settled on telling the story of the Medinas, owners of the Kings Cultural Center that promotes the arts in Armona.
Muñoz said although he is a videographer working with Univision in Fresno, he doesn’t have a filmmaking background. “It’s totally different than what I do on a normal day. I have creative control and I kind have my own ideas,” he said.
Other winners are:
▪ Frank Delgado, who will film the history and tradition of the annual horse ride of the Association de Charros. The documentary will surround the mythical legend of Joaquin Murrieta, a controversial symbol in California’s early history.
▪ Karen Dusek and Rebecca Adams will take two volunteer tutors and learners in the Mariposa County Library’s adult literacy program and tell their stories.
▪ Hashim Hassan will show the struggle and resilience of a Syrian refugee family in Fresno.
▪ Martha Yesenia Juarez, Carolina Gutierrez Alfaro, Jennifer Morales and Luiz Alcanzar follow a young Chicana as she uncovers the history of the land where she grew up.
▪ David Kennedy looks into the life of folk, Americana and rockabilly musician Lance Canales, who went from a Central Valley farm worker to prominent international artist.
▪ Theodoro Quiroz Jr is the only student filmmaker chosen of the 10. His project “Living a Life I didn’t Chose” explores the life of a young Latino male living in Orosi.
▪ Haley White will follow Amy Querin, who works through her dance company to help prisoners at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
▪ Paula Yang will showcase the life of three Hmong veterans who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War in Laos.