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Awards Go to Fifteen Film and Digital Media Projects

Los Angeles, CA (January 15, 2020) – Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) today announced its 2019 funding recipients. A record fifteen new projects received funding including four funded through the Current Issues Fund, made possible by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

This year’s awardees include twelve documentary projects and three digital shorts; ten of the funded projects are produced and/or directed by women. From three very unique films that shed light on the tenuous situation at our southern border (Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan, Borderlands and On the Divide) to documentaries that take on issues including health care in Puerto Rico, the rise of women of color in politics, the environmental crisis in Latin America and more, this year’s awardees reflect the richness and breadth of the Latino experience.

“We’re very excited about this year’s funded projects. We have a high percentage of new filmmakers and there’s an urgency and passion and timeliness about their subject matter. Stories about our border crisis are particularly noteworthy this year as well as films that go beyond the lower 48, with a fascinating look at Latinos in Alaska and an up-to-the minute report on the health care crisis in Puerto Rico,” says Sandie Viquez Pedlow, Executive Director of Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). “We’re proud to support these important filmmakers and bring their work to a national audience on PBS.”

“Now more than ever, the stories and voices of Latinos must be heard,” says Edward James Olmos, co-founder and Chairman of Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). “We look forward to working with these talented filmmakers; together we can reclaim our narrative and bridge the gap between our community and the nation at large — building bridges instead of walls.”

Every year LPB invites independent filmmakers to submit proposals for production, post-production and digital support. All proposals are reviewed by a group of public media professionals, including journalists, independent filmmakers, academics, and executives from national funding organizations.

The 2019 awarded projects are:


Current Issues Fund:

Producer: Paco de Onìs
Director: Pamela Yates
Category: Production
Genre: Documentary
Americans risk it all to stand up to inhumane immigration policies in Borderlands. This powerful set of stories about “righteous persons,” motivated by moral conviction and compassion, shows how courageous actions can lead to mobilization and the defense of human rights in the face of hate and discrimination.

Exodus Stories:Voices from the Caravan
Producer/Director: Ilse Fernandez
Category: Production
Genre: Documentary
Exodus Stories is an interwoven portrait of three Central American migrants and their quest to be granted asylum in the United States. Fleeing from violence or political persecution, asylum is their last hope. Directed by Colombian-American filmmaker Ilse Fernandez, the film follows their arduous and dangerous 2,600 mile journey to a promised land, where a border separates their Central American nightmare from the American Dream.

On the Divide
Producer/Director: Maya Cueva
Co-Director: Leah Galant
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
On the Divide follows the story of three Latinx people who live in McAllen, Texas and are, despite their differences, connected to the most unexpected place: the last abortion clinic on the U.S./Mexico border.

Salud de un Pueblo (working title)
Producer/Director: Patricia Benabe
Category: Production
Genre: Documentary
Puerto Rican filmmaker Patricia Benabe (Memories of a Penitent Heart, Councilwoman) explores the fragile health care system in Puerto Rico, currently on the verge of collapse. Unable to afford medical care, a growing number of patients are leaving the island to seek treatment on the U.S. mainland, leaving local hospitals and medical service providers struggling to meet mounting operational costs.


Public Media Content Fund:

American Exile
Producer/Director: John J. Valadez
Producer: Carleen L. Hsu
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
Fifty years after they fought in Vietnam, two Mexican American brothers face deportation, and in the process of fighting for their rights, discover thousands of veterans who now struggle with the same fate. The film will chronicle their journey as they fight to stay in the country they served, and wage a broader campaign to bring public attention and help to America’s veterans.

American Sons
Producer/Director: Andrew Gonzales
Producer: Laura Varela
Category: Production
Genre: Documentary
American Sons explores the life and death of Marine Corporal JV Villareal, Jr. and the men who served and died with him in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. Through verité, interviews, reenactments and recovered footage shot by JV himself, this film explores what these men endured during those years and their fight to adapt to civilian life in the country they fought so hard to defend.

And She Could Be Next
Producer/Director: Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
In a polarized America, where the dual forces of white supremacy and patriarchy threaten to further erode our democracy, women of color are claiming power by running for political office. And She Could Be Next, made by a team of women filmmakers of color, asks whether democracy itself can be preserved — and made stronger — by those most marginalized. Set against the backdrop of the 2018 midterm elections, a defiant group of candidates including Stacey Abrams, Rashida Tlaib, Lucy McBath, Veronica Escobar, Maria Elena Durazo, and Deb Haaland, are participating in the contact sport of true democracy and changing the face of American leadership.

Fruits of Labor
Producer/Director: Emily Cohen Ibañez
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
Fruits of Labor is Colombian-American filmmaker Emily Cohen Ibañez’s coming of age story about a California teenager traversing the seen and unseen forces that keep her family trapped in a cycle of poverty. What does it mean to live a dignified life as a working-poor young woman of color in the wealthiest nation of the world?

In the Pines
Producer/Director: Noam Osband
Producer: Sebastian Diaz Aguirre
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
In the Pines follows Raymundo Morales and his crew of Mexican planters over the course of a season planting trees in the U.S. for America’s largest tree planting business. We witness with intimate detail the personal and professional struggles of men living and working together, each planting thousands of trees a day to support their families thousands of miles away in northern Oaxaca.

Setting the Word on Fire
Producer/Director: David L. Brown
Producer/Writer: Raymond Telles
Co-Director/Co-Producer: Louis Dematteis
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
Through the life and work of writer Alejandro Murguia, Setting the Word on Fire explores the roles of activist writers and poets passionately involved with the social justice struggles of our times. Following in the footsteps of the Beat poets and inspired by the rich traditions of Spanish and Latin American literature, Murguia confronts with his work and his words many of the urgent issues of the day. 

Troubled Water
Producer/Director: Will Parrinello
Producer/Editor: Rick Tejada-Flores
Category: Post-Production
Genre: Documentary
Three indigenous activists in Central and South America fight to stop multinational corporations from polluting their rivers and lakes, destroying their farming communities and threatening their way of life. The film follows as they brave death threats and murder and, in the process, reveals a troubling pattern of U.S. exploitation and political intrigue taking place throughout Latin America. 

Producer/Director: Rodrigo Reyes
Category: Production
Genre: Documentary
Mexican American director Rodrigo Reyes works as a Spanish court interpreter. After befriending a client, a young Latino defendant, during a gang-related murder trial, Rodrigo and his new friend begin collaborating to craft a multi-layered story about how the failures of immigration and opportunity intersect with the criminal justice system.


Digital Media:

Con Sabor Ártico
Producer/Director: Indra Arriaga Delgado
Category: Digital Media
Genre: Documentary
Latinos in the arctic face unique challenges adapting to extreme environments where everything is foreign, remote, and sometimes inaccessible. Alaska ships in more than 90 percent of its food so, for the growing but still small population of Latinos in Alaska, this means that they cannot cook in their traditional ways or grow their own food. Con Sabor Ártico documents how some Latinos are adapting their rich culinary practices in the Arctic, using local ingredients, Arctic fish and fauna, and even meats like moose and caribou to hold on to traditions and pass them along to new generations of Latinos in Alaska.

On The Beat: Feeling Body
Producer/Director: Karla Duarte
Category: Digital Media
Genre: Documentary
On The Beat: Feeling Body is a poetic documentary short about women in search of empowerment and liberation by using their mind-body connection through the Afro-Mexican practices in music and dance.

Milly and Chilly
Producer/Director: William D. Caballero
Category: Digital Media
Genre: Documentary
This animated familial biopic features 3D modeled figures of the project creator and his infirm Puerto Rican parents, digitally inserted into a hand-built miniature reconstruction of their trailer home. Visuals are combined with an edited conversation between parents and son, touching upon subjects such as health, income, hopes/dreams, and identity.


About Latino Public Broadcasting

Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is the leader in the development, production, acquisition and distribution of educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to public broadcasting stations and other public media entities. Latino Public Broadcasting provides a voice for the diverse Latino community throughout the United States and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Latino Public Broadcasting also produces VOCES, the signature Latino arts and culture documentary series on PBS devoted to exploring the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience. Between 2009 and 2019, LPB programs won over 125 awards, including two prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards as well as Emmys, Imagen Awards and the Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Director, Documentary. In addition, LPB has been the recipient of the Norman Lear Legacy Award and the NCLR Alma Award for Special Achievement – Year in Documentaries. Sandie Viquez Pedlow is Executive Director of LPB; Edward James Olmos is Co-founder and Chairman.


About the Current Issues Fund

The Current Issues Fund (CIF) provides production and post-production funding to documentary films (60 or 90 minutes only) exploring contemporary civic and social justice issues that integrate the Latino American perspective, incorporate a journalistic approach into the filmmaking process and have resonance for a national audience. The fund is made possible by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


Photos: Top row, left to right: Troubled Water, credit: Tim Russo; American Sons, credit: Infinite Warrior Productions. Bottom row, left to right: Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan, credit: Ilse Fernandez; American Exile, credit: John J. Valadez & Carleen Hsu; Setting the Word on Fire, credit: Alejandro Stuart.

About Us
Latino Public Broadcasting is the leader of the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community on public media throughout the United States. Latino Public Broadcasting is a registered 501(c)(3), EIN: 95-4776447.
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