Maya Cueva | JFI Resident Spotlight: May 2023

Jewish Film Institute
5 min readMay 12, 2023

The Jewish Film Institute is proud to feature 2023 Filmmaker in Residence Maya Cueva and her project A Rebel Without a Pause in our JFI Resident Spotlight for the month of May, 2023.

JFI 2023 Filmmaker in Residence Maya Cueva and a still from her documentary A Rebel Without A Pause. Courtesy of Maya Cueva.

About the Film: A Rebel Without a Pause shines a light on Dr. Quentin Young, a Jewish doctor from Chicago, who teamed up with the Black Panther Party and its Chairman Fred Hampton throughout the 1960s — and fought the FBI at great personal cost — to bring healthcare to the most vulnerable Americans. Told through the eyes of his granddaughter, director Maya Cueva, the documentary explores Young’s story through animation, exclusive archival material, and new interviews with iconic voices, while drawing connections to the modern day healthcare workers carrying on his legacy. A Rebel Without a Pause asks us to consider what allyship really means in a movement fighting against white supremacy and racism within the healthcare system.

Jewish Film Institute: What inspired you to make this film?

Maya Cueva: I grew up hearing stories from my Jewish grandpa, Dr. Quentin Young, and his dedication to the fight for national healthcare. Stories about him organizing meetings with Black Panthers, such as Fred Hampton and Kwame Ture (FKA Stokley Carmichael), and being hunted by the FBI, were commonly told at the dinner table. I often attribute my passion for organizing to my grandfather, who was Martin Luther King’s doctor in Chicago, fought to desegregate and end racial discrimination in Cook County Hospital, and organized with Black Panthers and others to help create free clinics in Chicago — which spearheaded the free clinic movement.

As Black and Brown communities continue to be killed by preventable illnesses, at the hands of police, and white supremacy and fascist groups in the U.S. — I find that it’s urgent to tell the story of the Black Panther Party’s contribution to the healthcare movement in the U.S., and the camaraderie between Black and Jewish political organizers.

Archival photos from A Rebel Without a Pause show the Black Panther-run Spurgeon Jake Winters Free People’s Medical Center and Dr. Quentin Young outside the Field Museum in Chicago. Courtesy of Maya Cueva.

JFI: Where are you now in the filmmaking process?

MC: I am currently in development on the film and my first film shoot will be in May in Chicago. I am in the process of raising more funds to create the sample and move into full production.

JFI: How is the JFI Filmmaker Residency helping you develop your project?

MC: The JFI Filmmaker Residency has been tremendously helpful as I begin to develop my documentary’s arc and main focus. I’ve learned so much from the other fellows and our discussions have challenged me to see my project in a new way. I particularly enjoyed our workshop sessions with Judith Helfand which helped me shape my film’s main question and my one-pager for my pitch materials.

Archival photos from A Rebel Without a Pause show Black Panther Leader Fred Hamption speaking at a press conference and Dr. Quentin Young speaking at an event with Jesse Jackson. Courtesy of Maya Cueva.

JFI: How does this story add to our collective understanding of Jewish life, culture, history or identity?

MC: My grandpa, Dr. Young, was a first generation Jew whose parents were from Lithuania and Russia. He was raised in Chicago going to synagogue and celebrating Jewish holidays, but as he grew older, he did not remain religiously Jewish, yet he grew into his identity as a politically active Jewish person. This film will explore the often forgotten history of organizing between Jewish and Black communities in the 60s and 70s — specifically in the healthcare system — and how we can learn from that history to fight against systemic racism and oppression within our healthcare system.

JFI: If you could screen your film as a double feature with any film, what movie would you choose and why?

MC: I would screen my documentary with the New York Times documentary short, “Takeover”. The film, directed by Emma Francis-Snyder explores the day the Young Lords Party took over Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx in 1970 to fight for decent healthcare. I am inspired by this film and I feel my documentary and “Takeover” would play well next to each other given their similar themes.

About the Filmmaker: Maya Cueva is a Jewish-Latina, award-winning director and producer with a background in documentary, radio, and audio producing. She was a Netflix Nonfiction Director and Producer Fellow and her work has been featured on The New Yorker, NPR, The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, and National Geographic. Cueva received a student Emmy for her short film The Provider and her feature film, On the Divide, premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. And was broadcast on POV PBS in 2022. Her most recent short documentary Ale Libre was acquired by The New Yorker and has screened at Big Sky Documentary Festival, Hot Docs, AspenFilm Festival, and SFFILM. She lives and works in Berkeley, CA.

Instagram: @maya.cueva_
Twitter: @mayitacuevita

About the JFI Filmmakers in Residence Program: The JFI Filmmakers in Residence Program is a year-long artist residency that provides creative, marketing, and production support for emerging and established filmmakers whose documentary projects explore and expand thoughtful consideration of Jewish history, life, culture, and identity.

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Jewish Film Institute

The Jewish Film Institute, based in San Francisco, champions bold films and filmmakers that expand and evolve the Jewish story for audiences everywhere.