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The Big Tell showcases 13 documentaries that capture Central Valley stories

The+13+selected+filmmakers+sit+for+a+Q%26A+session+after+the+showing.
Wyatt Bible/The Collegian
The 13 selected filmmakers sit for a Q&A session after the showing.

Fresno, Merced, Parlier, Woodlake, Visalia and Madera: these towns are the main focal points behind 13 short documentaries created by local filmmakers. Behind each story, the filmmakers each won an $8,000 grant to develop their films for the big screen.

At The Big Tell, which premiered Nov. 30 at the Tower Theatre, the filmmakers got the opportunity to share the results.

The Big Tell, created by Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC), is a film contest that allows aspiring filmmakers to apply for a grant that will help fund the creation of their documentary. This was the contest’s sixth year, and also the first year that the premiere was held in-person. The 13 documentaries will be broadcast on Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m. on Valley PBS and CMAC.

Among the offerings in the program is “Reaching Alcalá,” a film about educator Steve Alcalá, who has been teaching music in the Fresno Unified School District for over 30 years. With the usage of vibrant sounds, colors and narration, Latin Jazz seeps through to become the focal point of the film.

Director Adán Ávalos, a professor at Fresno State, shared how his own love for the genre propelled him to make this documentary and said he hopes that people will continue to be curious to uncover new stories.

“With [jazz], there’s still persistence of understanding diversity within music,” Ávalos shared with The Collegian. “People realize that there is so much beauty and amazing work to be discovered if they haven’t discovered [stories] yet.”

These Big Tell filmmakers represent the fall cohort. The remaining 13 filmmakers will premiere their work in April 2024 for the spring cohort at the Tower Theatre.

“[Fresno] watches these films because we want untold or undiscovered stories or something that’s flying under the radar that maybe you’ve heard about but never knew the whole story behind it,” said Bryan Harley, executive director of CMAC.

As soon as the clock hit 7 p.m. at the Tower premiere, attendees rushed to their seats to watch the 13 featured documentaries.

The topics told through the lens of the cameras ranged from the impacts of redlining in Fresno to a woman who organizes a Pride festival in Merced every year.

“Finding Voices” told the story of S. Bryan Medina, the creator of Inner Ear Open Mic and Beat Down Poetry Slam. Medina was also the first Black Poet Laureate of Fresno County.

Fresno State student Taylor Quintanar was one of the 13 people chosen for the grant to capture Medina’s story about his passion for poetry and how he spreads this love throughout the Fresno community.

Quintanar shared her thoughts on the people who surround poets in Fresno and how the Central Valley serves as a catalyst for developing voices in poetry.

“I think it’s the people here. The main point of the film was that [Medina] is inspiring other people and then they’re inspiring other people. It’s like a chain reaction,” Quintanar said.

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