Experiments in Freedom: Central Valley Portraits in 21st Century Crisis

Yehuda Sharim
Global Art Studies
UC Merced

Experiments in Freedom is a full feature film reflecting on the facets of everyday life in the open fields and the changing urban complexes of Merced, California. It is a poetic meditation on the experience of displacement, homelessness, and structural inequality, questioning the myth of “development” across the Central Valley. This work charts a region in the midst of a global pandemic (often overlooked as “the other California” or even “the other Merced” or South-Merced) where gaps and cracks continue widening due to loss, everyday precarity, and continued neglect of the region’s most vulnerable populations. Given the meager local and national visual documentation of the most vulnerable in rural California, this interdisciplinary project brings together approaches from critical film/media studies to advance scholarship-media that portray the emotional histories embedded across the Central Valley, thus highlighting the vital need for equity and justice among underrepresented communities.

Image credit: Yehuda Sharim