AMERICAN SANTA Documentary Short Film

Are You Dreaming Of A White Christmas?

Black Santas Spread Love Despite a Haunting Shadow of Racism in ‘American Santa’ the Documentary Short Film Now Streaming from the L.A. Times Short Docs Film Series

Executive Produced by Billy Porter and D.J. Gugenheim in association with Incognegro Productions

Celebrating the Joy and Resilience of Black Santas, This Documentary Delivers an Indictment of American Racism Written on the Back of a Christmas Card

LOS ANGELES  – The acclaimed documentary short film “American Santa” is now streaming on the Los Angeles Times’ YouTube channel and, making the film accessible globally – for free.

Directed, produced, and edited by Avi Zev Weider and produced by Alexandra Berger, for the L.A. Times Short Docs film series, the film is an Academy Awards contender for Best Documentary Short Film and was included on DOC NYC’s influential 15-film Short List.

In this film, Black Santas rise as superhero figures, spreading boundless joy, love, and acceptance to families and children at a bustling mall. But as Americans prepare to celebrate, a haunting shadow threatens to unravel the season’s true spirit, delivering an indictment against bigotry written on the back of a Christmas card.

“American Santa” is executive produced by Billy Porter and D.J. Gugenheim in association with Incognegro Productions.


L.A. Times Studios Senior Commissioning Editor Nani Walker added, “We are proud to add ‘American Santa’ to our slate, a stark film about the racial divide in this country.”

“American Santa” was filmed in December 2022 leading up to Christmas Eve at the Eastridge Mall in Gastonia, North Carolina. To capture the genuine essence of this unique holiday experience, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider embedded closely with Stafford Braxton and the dedicated Santas of “Santas Just Like Me.” Their immersive approach provides an intimate and unapologetic look into the lives of these Black Santas, unveiling both the immense joy they bring and the unsettling challenges they face. The film has recently played at Provincetown Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, and Montclair Film Festival.

Director Avi Zev Weider said, “My intention was to spotlight the resilience and enduring spirit of these Santas in the face of adversity. I wanted to amplify a story that often goes unheard. As the L.A. Times showcases ‘American Santa’ to audiences worldwide, I’m hopeful that its core message – that racist ideas breed racists – will provoke thoughtful conversations this holiday season.”

Director’s Statement

On December 6th, 2022, I heard a story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that caught my attention. Juana Summers was interviewing a man, Stafford Braxton, about his business – “Santas Just Like Me.” In the interview, Stafford not only describes the joy he brings to families by making Black and Brown Santas available but also the racist pushback he endures.

Stafford said: “Matter of fact, we had an event – when you’re approaching the Santa set where I’m located, you cannot tell what the Santa looks like that is in the chair until you walk around. And so the little girl was anxious, ready to go see Santa. And when she saw Santa, she was ready to get in line to go see him. But the mother said that’s not the kind we like… So you can see how racism is perpetuated from one generation to the next. I receive multiple phone calls. I saved about 10 or 15 that have been very vile, and I wouldn’t even repeat the stuff that has been said to me or to Santa.”

As someone who has also been on the receiving end of anonymous anti-Semitic voice messages, listening to this part both set my teeth on edge and sparked my vision for the film. Driven by a desire to present a complete and honest portrayal of Stafford Braxton’s journey and the experiences of the Black Santas, I expressed to Stafford my intention to confront the painful reality of the racism they faced. I wanted to include the racist voice messages left for him as a powerful counterpoint to the joy and positivity that Stafford and the Santas were creating. It was crucial for me to weave these contrasting narratives together, exposing the stark contrast between the love and acceptance they were spreading and the ugliness of the racism that persists in our society. With Stafford’s support and courage, we embarked on a journey to capture both the highs and lows, shining a light on the resilience and grace displayed by these everyday heroes. By sharing these difficult experiences, “American Santa” aims to challenge, educate, and ultimately inspire meaningful conversations about the urgent need for equality and understanding.



Director: Avi Zev Weider, Producer: Avi Zev Weider, Producer: Alexandra Berger, Director of Photography: John Maringouin, Editor: Avi Zev Weider, Executive Producers: Billy Porter and D.J. Gugenheim in association with Incognegro Productions, Production Company: Loop Filmworks. Featuring: Santas Just Like Me, Stafford Braxton, Soulful Santa Maurice, Soulful Mrs. Claus, Santa Warren, Santa Bill, Pink. Colorist: Derek Wiesehan, Key Art Designer: Missy Chimovitz, Sound Designer and Mixer: Avi Zev Weider.

For L.A. Times Studios: Senior Commissioning Producer: Nani Sahra Walker, Supervising Producer: Leslie Lindsey, Senior Producer: Karen Foshay, Series Producer: Jessica Q. Chen, Executive Producers: Sharon Matthews, Terry Tang, Jason Spingarn-Koff, Shani Hilton, and Kevin Merida.