Director's Statement: I made this series because I am captivated by the richness of the ethnic and cultural diversity in this country. We filmed these several years ago, when VHS tapes were the norm; but even though technically speaking they are somewhat outdated, the guests are so interesting that I think the series still deserves to be viewed.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank not only the other hosts (see below) and all the guests (see below), but also Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California, which was kind enough to provide a studio and crew in which to film these interview shows. In almost every case, I also added some on-location footage after the interviews were filmed to round out the picture.
Director's Bio: A filmmaker since 2004, Ma is essentially self-taught. Her work has screened and been in festivals in seven countries on three continents. She produces and directs in both English and Spanish, and in certain respects considers herself an international version of Les Blank. Her passions are music, dance, and cross-cultural understanding; and she tries to combine each of these elements in her work, whether documentary, narrative, or experimental. Her earlier careers (history professor, lawyer, and non-profit administrator) also have a significant effect on her filmmaking.
Claire Miller studied theater as an undergraduate. She was also staff in a non-profit organization which focused on ethnic and cultural diversity. When she learned we were going to interview someone who, in his retirement years, founded and worked in a social service organization, wrote and recorded his own songs, and wrote plays, she wanted to be host (or hostess, if you will). That seemed a great idea, and so she is host for the episode that features Fred Davis Jackson.
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Jeff Schoenhard worked with refugees and internally-displaced populations in the late '90s in Albania and Kosovo with an NGO named Balkan Sunflowers. Through this organization, he partnered with organizations including War Child, Clowns Without Borders, Doctors Without Borders, and Save the Children. Besides volunteering at refugee camps, Jeff's accomplishments included organizing a mural project in the art hub of Gjakova, and helping organize a regional art event focused on installation art among the ruins of Gjakova's dowtown area.
Back stateside, more recently Jeff has worked in product development and travel writing, including for Oakland Magazine. He still enjoys underground art events, and lives in Oakland with his partner Julie. He hosts two episodes in this series, both of which feature refugees from Laos.
Hershell West is an artist, an arts organizer and a teacher. He also has done some work in video production and photography, and seemed a natural choice when we were looking for someone to host two of our episodes in which the guests were artists.
A native of Alabama and graduate of the University of South Florida with an MFA, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1990s and has lived there ever since. As arts organizer, he ran several programs for his university in Tampa, Florida; and in the Bay Area, has been president of the board of ProArts (in Oakland) and the Richmond Arts Museum as well as Commissioner on the Arts & Cultural Commission of both of those cities. He hosts two episodes of this series, one with cartoneria (paper maché) artist from Mexico, and one with painter and curator from California.