SeriesFest and National Geographic Documentary Films have selected A.K. Sandhu‘s docuseries We Beg Your Pardon, America as  the winner of the “Spotlight Your Town” initiative which supports an inclusive group of unscripted storytellers creating authentic, community-driven stories that embody the breadth and diversity of the people and places they represent.

We Beg Your Pardon, America tackles America’s version of history about the Black Panther Party through poetic interrogation by womxn Panthers. Sandhu will receive a $20,000 grant to be applied to her production, an opportunity to pitch to National Geographic Documentary Films and unscripted teams in one-on-one curated meetings, as well as receive a six-month mentorship with Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, City So Real).

“I am thrilled for A.K. and excited to work with her as she brings We Beg Your Pardon, America to fruition,” said James. “It’s a vitally important series that will tell us about the essential – and too easily forgotten – contributions of these amazing women activists and revolutionaries in Oakland. And A.K.’s passion and determination is inspiring.”

Additionally, SeriesFest will award a $10,000 grant sponsored by Visible to the Oakland Theater Project which aligns with the cause of the winning artist’s concept.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with the talented A.K. Sandhu and our longtime partners at Oakland School for the Arts to empower Oakland youth and explore the true history of the Black Panther Party. This project will help our students grow as artists and emerging leaders and will allow them to better understand their own journey as agents of change.” said Oakland Theater Project in a statement.

“I am honored to be in the company of such talented creators and thrilled to be chosen as the winner,” said Sandhu. “To have my work be elevated at such a crucial juncture in my career feels incredibly special. I look forward to learning from my mentor, Steve James, and maximizing this opportunity to share important and untold stories of amazing people who remind us that each of us has the power to create positive change in our communities. Much gratitude to everyone at SeriesFest for creating this wonderful initiative.”

Sandhu is the founder of Re–Present Partners, a womxn and BIPOC owned, Oakland-based production company that embraces the expansion of how underrepresented communities are depicted in media. Sandhu has been awarded the 2021 Emerging Artist Award by California Arts Council. She is currently a fellow in DOC NYC/VC’s 2021-2022 Storytelling Incubator, a global mentorship initiative, and was selected as part of the inaugural cohort for Represent Media’s Re-Take Oakland 2019-2021 film fellowship for emerging BIPOC filmmakers. She has earned degrees from Columbia University and U.C. Berkeley, and is an active member of A-Doc, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, CineFemme, and Collective of Documentary Women Cinematographers

SeriesFest opened “Spotlight Your Town” submissions in 2021 and worked with National Geographic Documentary Films to identify three finalists that fit the company’s mission and slate of projects. The three finalists took part in a workshop supported by BOXT which featured guest speakers from the unscripted production and development industry — Jim Berger (Founder, High Noon Entertainment), Michael Rucker (TruTV), Sydney Clover (Senior Director of Development, National Geographic) and documentarians Mike Shum (Police on Trial), Joanna Forscher (WOMAN) and Summer Nettles (She Quit).

Finalists also heard from Ioli Filmeridis and Patrick Macmanus (The Girl From Plainville, Dr. Death) about responsible storytelling and received pitch coaching from Meghan Ross of Seed & Spark to help finesse their pitches. The winning project was selected from this slate of finalists, in partnership with Steve James.