There are 27 feature films, 17 shorts and more representing 34 countries, including exploring voter suppression, refugees along the Southern border, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia including racecar driving, the promise of artificial intelligence, and a panel about collaborating with indigenous communities.
The 2019 Margaret Mead Film Festival is Oct 17-20 at the American Museum of Natural History
The theme of this year’s festival is “Breaking the Narrative,” presenting stories that disrupt stereotypical representations of cultures, and include 17 U.S. premieres.
Tickets are now on sale at amnh.org/mead.
Tickets to any film or event include access to the special VR Lounge: Awavena in the Museum’s Starlight Café. Here, festivalgoers will experience a stunning tale of metamorphosis in Lynnette Wallworth’s new VR piece, Awavena, created in collaboration with the Amazon’s Yawanawa community.
This year’s films shed light on contemporary culture through the work of filmmakers from countries across the world including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greenland, Haiti, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and South Korea. With more than 26 filmmakers and protagonists in attendance this year, the festival’s post-screening discussions will allow audiences to participate in rich, engaging, and intimate conversations.
The American Museum of Natural History’s Margaret Mead Film Festival was founded in honor of pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead, one of the first anthropologists to recognize the significance of film for fieldwork. It is distinguished by its outstanding selection of titles and by the forums for dialogue with filmmakers, invited speakers, and film protagonists.
Here is some of the schedule:
Opening Night and Collectively at the Mead
The opening-night film on Thursday, October 17, is the New York premiere of Freedom Fields, directed by Naziha Arebi.
The film introduces us to the members of a Libyan women’s soccer team. Despite the utopian hopes of the Arab Spring, their community refuses to support the team, forcing them to disband. Some women move on, becoming mothers and professionals, while others hold on to their soccer dreams. There will be a discussion with the filmmaker after the screening.
This year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival features the second edition of a centerpiece presentation called Collectively at the Mead, focusing on how media empowers communities to make their voices heard. This year, three American collectives represent a diverse group of visual storytellers—Appalachian filmmakers, community voices of Chicago, and Pacific Islander media-makers.
Each collective provides mentorship and training as well as access to filmmaking equipment: Appalshop based in eastern Kentucky, Kartemquin in Chicago, Illinois; and Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) from Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Special Events Free with Any Mead Ticket or Festival Pass (RSVP required for some events)
Featured performances and interactive events around the Museum complement the extraordinary slate of films and further illuminate the many cultures celebrated at this year’s event. The Mead Festival will offer VR Lounge: Awavena in the Museum’s Starlight Café. Here, festivalgoers will experience a stunning tale of metamorphosis in Lynnette Wallworth’s new VR piece, Awavena, created in collaboration with the Amazon’s Yawanawa community.
On Saturday, October 19, at 4:30 pm, a special panel discussion, Collaborations in Cultural Storytelling: Renovating the Northwest Coast Hall, examines how AMNH collaborates with Indigenous communities to update a gallery that first opened more than a century ago. How do we reckon with the past, center contemporary voices, and build towards a future that benefits everyone involved.
The program explores the challenges and opportunities afforded by the renovation of the Museum’s historic Northwest Coast Hall with Nuu-chah-nulth artist and cultural historian Haa’yuups, project co-curator and AMNH experts, and is moderated by John Haworth, a former director of the National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan.
New programs for 2019
A new program at this year’s Mead Festival is Through the Artist’s Lens, a series of four short films celebrating artists from around the world.
Tierney Brown’s Color focuses on the artisans employed at Kremer Pigments in New York City and how they mix historic mineral recipes and the latest synthetic chemicals to create the paints artists use to craft a landscape of color.
Cuban Canvas by Kavery Kaul introduces us to established and emerging artists in Cuba.
Simon Rose’s Cultural Activist—Maree Clarke profiles artist Maree Clarke and how she enables people to actively reconnect with their cultures through supersized gold necklaces and clay Kopi skull caps.
Ming Xue’s A Woman Who Paints Thangkas celebrates one of the first female painters of traditional Tibetan Buddhist textile paintings called thangkas.
- Border South, directed by Raúl O. Paz Pastrana
What can we learn about the lives of people journeying the 2,300-mile-long North American migrant trail through the artifacts they leave behind? (N.Y. Premiere)
- Saudi Women’s Driving School, directed by Erica Gornall For many Americans, getting a driver’s license is a mundane rite of passage. But for women in Saudi Arabia, who were only allowed to drive legally starting in June 2018, it’s a critical step along the road to independence. Cameras document this change with a rarely-seen look inside the Kingdom and unprecedented access to The Saudi Women’s Driving School, the largest such complex in the world.
- In Stitches, directed by Hannah Rafkin and Meg Robbins
There are 11 official languages in South Africa, yet the most successful comedians there perform in English. Speaking their vernacular languages, these trailblazing comedians show how specific words are key to nailing the punch-line and unveil the racial and sexist biases set against their native tongues. (N.Y. Premiere)
- When We Walk, directed by Jason DaSilva
Six years after When I Walk (which plays on a double bill with this film), director Jason DaSilva’s marriage dissolves and his wife and son move from NYC to Texas. His advancing multiple sclerosis forces him to make a stressful decision. In his Queens apartment, he receives 24/7 in-home care, but he only sees his son occasionally on Skype. If he moves to Texas to be more present in his son’s life, his only option for care would be in a nursing home.
- Covered Up, directed by Rachel Elitzur
When Rachel—an ultra-orthodox Jewish woman in Tel Aviv—asks permission to uncover her head after a divorce, her family strongly objects. But Rachel refuses to give up without a thorough investigation of the rules and norms around this religious custom. Through her consultations with rabbi, friends, parents, and wig dressers, Rachel reconsiders her relationship to her family and community. (U.S. Premiere)
- Eating Up Easter, directed by Sergio Mata’u Rapu
The people of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, are fighting for their cultural heritage, for job opportunities, and for an island clear of trash. Meet a local ecologist, two musicians, and the island’s first Indigenous governor as they work to balance growth with sustainability on an island overflowing with tourists and growing piles of litter. (N.Y Premiere)
- The Guardian of Memory (El Guardián de Memoria), directed by Marcela Arteag
Stunning, quiet landscapes from Mexico’s Juarez Valley are juxtaposed with horrifying, intimate tales of mass murder. In 2008, the Mexican government sent an army to the rugged border region, ostensibly to fight drug trafficking. As locals from Juarez and Chihuahua tearfully recount the stories of their murdered or disappeared children, parents, and siblings, a Texas-based lawyer argues asylum seekers from the area are victims of a genocide. (N.Y. Premiere)
- Made in Boise, directed by Beth Aala
While the ethical questions that surround the commercial surrogacy industry remain unresolved, hundreds of women are choosing to be paid surrogates in Boise, Idaho. Follow four surrogates as they navigate their relationships with their families and the future parents while experiencing the emotional and physical hurdles of being pregnant with someone else’s baby. (N.Y. Premiere)
- Massacre River, directed by Suzan Beraza
Pikilina, a 23-year-old Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent, scrambles to regain documentation for herself and her children after the government reverses birthright citizenship. She is one of more than 200,000 people who must now choose between a life where they no longer have access to official jobs or government services or fleeing to a country they barely know. (N.Y. Premiere)
- Runner, directed by Bill Gallaghe
The first time Guor Marial ran a marathon he qualified for the Olympics. Unable to run for his newly formed country of South Sudan, he was the only athlete to compete under the banner of the International Olympic Committee in the 2012 London Olympics. Run alongside and cheer him on through his journey from Sudanese refugee to world-class athlete. (U.S. Premiere)
Festival Information and Tickets
All screenings take place at the American Museum of Natural History. Opening night film and special screening tickets are $15 ($13 Members/students/seniors). All other screenings are $12 ($10 Members/students/seniors).
Film Lover Pass (five programs of your choice, excluding the opening-night film and reception and special screenings) is $50 ($45 Members).
One-Day Pass (three films of your choice valid for one day, Saturday or Sunday, excluding the opening-night film and reception and special screenings) is $30 ($27 Members).
Student Pass (three programs of your choice, excluding the opening-night film and reception and special screenings) is $24.Personalized film schedules can be created at mead2019.sched.com.
Tickets can be purchased by phone at 212-769-5200, online at amnh.org/mead, or during Museum hours at the Advance Group Sales desk in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda (Central Park West at 79th Street entrance) and at the Rose Center for Earth and Space (81st Street entrance). During the festival, tickets may be purchased up to one hour prior to showtime at any ticket counter.
For more information, visit amnh.org/mead or call 212-769-5305.