Film professor contributes to new PBS documentary on race in America

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Film and Dgital Media
UC Santa Cruz assistant professor of film and digital media Jennifer Maytorena Taylor has produced one of several short pieces that comprise The Talk: Race in America, a new film premiering February 20 on PBS.

The two-hour documentary is about the increasingly necessary conversation taking place in homes and communities, between parents of color and their children, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police.

The Talk presents six personal stories to illustrate the issue from multiple points of view. Filmed in communities across the country, the stories include interviews with police, academics, community activists, and family members.

Airing in the wake of shootings of unarmed men of color such as Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, the documentary also features interviews with Kenya Barris, creator of the Peabody Award-winning ABC series black-ish; musician/activist Nas; actor/director Rosie Perez, screenwriter/producer John Singleton; New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by the Cleveland police in a local park.

Each story is produced by a different filmmaker to ensure that diverse perspectives are presented. The segment that Taylor created is titled Message to Zaire.

“It’s about an Afro Latino Muslim family in Oakland and their little boy who wants to be a police officer,” said Taylor.

“I was commissioned to do the piece by Latino Public Broadcasting for WNET, and brought my close colleague and frequent collaborator Mustafa Davis on board to co-produce it with me this past fall.”

Taylor joined the Film and Digital Media Department at UC Santa Cruz in 2014. She is an award-winning documentary producer and director of character-based, documentary films--often focusing on youth, Latinos, and life in communities affected by poverty, surveillance, the correctional system, and state-sponsored violence.

The overall project is directed by Academy Award nominee and multiple Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, and produced by Academy Award nominee Julie Anderson.

At last July’s Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles to discuss the upcoming documentary, the filmmakers were joined onstage by Samaria Rice, whose son was 12-years-old when he was killed by the Cleveland police while playing with a toy gun in a local park.

“The conversation that needs to be held in America is about racism,” Rice noted. “It can be uncomfortable. It needs to happen or America is just going to crumble right in front of your eyes.”

The Talk: Race in America airs on PBS, February 20, at 9 p.m. Visit the PBS web site for more information and to watch a preview.