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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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‘The Big Tell’ shines a spotlight on Central Valley voices

The+Tower+Theatre+is+home+to+a+variety+of+entertainment+events.+
Alexa Barraza
The Tower Theatre is home to a variety of entertainment events.

From stories ranging from a local Central Valley barber to local organic farmers, 14 Central Valley filmmakers each presented their films at Fresno’s Tower Theatre on Tuesday, April 16.

The 8th annual Big Tell concluded its showcase where it premiered 13 different documentaries for the 2024 cohort. The event was hosted by CMAC and was sponsored by local organizations, including Valley PBS, the Central Valley Community Foundation and several others.

Over 200 applicants submitted their ideas to the film contest a year ago. CMAC selected 26 of those applicants, awarding each a grant of $8,000 toward the development of their films.

Each winner was given three months to complete their short film in which they also received guidance from Sascha Brown Rice, an Emmy-nominated documentarian.

The first 13 filmmakers showcased their films back in November while the remaining filmmakers premiered theirs Tuesday.

‘The Big Tell’ showcases original stories from local filmmakers. (Alexa Barraza)

It is uncommon for CMAC to divide the contest into two cohorts.

“[CMAC] got extra funding this year,” said Natalie Nigg, marketing and development manager at CMAC. “We got a grant from the KDA Creative Corps which allowed us to bring on 26 filmmakers instead of our usual 10, so we split that up into two cohorts.”

A few hundred attendees filed to their seats when 7 p.m. hit. An agricultural theme was prominent in the first handful of documentaries shown.

One documentary that shared this theme was “Roots Run Deep,” a story that displayed cultural traditions through African American and Hispanic organic farmers based in the Central Valley. The film was told through the narrative of local poet Lila Imani.

Jamillah Finley, director of the film, shared her personal connection to the film and the implementation of poetry.

“Me being a poet and also being a healer, that is what I was trying to convey in the poetry and in the storytelling [in the film],” Finley said during the Q&A session.

“Elite” also shared personal connections within the community, except, not through farming but through cutting hair.

The documentary told the story of local barber Carlos Pompa, owner of Elite Barber Studios in Fresno. Pompa, who came from a rocky upbringing, shares his love of cutting hair and creating friendships with his clients.

One of those friendships was with Jose Romo Jr., director of the film and also a former photographer of The Collegian.

“I’ve known Carlos for about four years now,” Romo Jr. said. “He started from a spare room, to a garage, to a shop and I saw the story unfold before my eyes. I feel like barbershops are overlooked. I got to learn a lot about that aspect of the community that many people don’t know about.”

Outside of the main entrance of Tower Theatre was a red carpet-style photo booth, complete with a backdrop, studio lighting and a photographer.

Many of the filmmakers along with friends and family members filed outside to take their pictures, becoming the local filmmaking celebrities of Fresno that night.

“I hope that folks recognize that there are really powerful and unique stories in the Central Valley that deserve a platform,” Nigg said. “I hope people walk away with more appreciation and knowledge on where they live.”

The 13 documentaries will be broadcast on Valley PBS and CMAC on April 28 beginning at 3 p.m.

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