The American Museum of Natural History celebrates 35 years as founder of the Margaret Mead Film Festival-the preeminent showcase for contemporary cultural storytelling-November 10 through November 13, 2011. The festival will screen over 35 outstanding films, including 7 U.S. premieres, culled from more than 1,000 international and domestic submissions, and feature live musical performances and a space-themed Radiolab listening party in the Hayden Planetarium dome. Seven filmmakers are in the running for the coveted Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award to be conferred by a jury chaired by Darren Aronofsky, director of Academy Award-winning film BLACK SWAN, and awarded on closing night.
In the spirit of the legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead, this year's films shed light on diverse and, sometimes, vanishing cultures through the work of filmmakers from more than 30 countries, including the Czech Republic, Egypt, Mozambique, and Portugal. Twenty one of the filmmakers will be in attendance, as will two MacArthur Fellows, including WNYC Radiolab's Jad Abumrad and anthropologist and Mead Festival advisor Faye Ginsburg. The festival's post-screening discussions allow audiences to participate in rich, engaging, and intimate conversations with filmmakers and film subjects.
"The Mead Festival illustrates the profound richness and variety of human experience today," says Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "By training a lens on the people and experiences of our own time, it builds on and extends the legacy of the great Margaret Mead and the American Museum of Natural History's commitment to studying and presenting culture."
Festival highlights also include Dreams of Outer Space, a film series about space exploration and science-fiction cinema; the 35th Anniversary Retrospective, a celebration of the festival's most influential features over the past three decades; and a live performance by Mohawk musicians.
"Every year the Mead Festival introduces audiences to cultures and communities that might otherwise be inaccessible," adds Ariella Ben-Dov, Margaret Mead Film Festival creative director. "With filmmakers present at the screenings, the films spotlight the struggle to preserve traditions and cultures against great odds."
Full film descriptions and trailers can be found online at amnh.org/mead. The public can purchase tickets and create a personalized film schedule at mead2011.sched.org. For festival highlights or daily updates, information can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/MeadFilmFestival or Twitter using #MeadFilmFest.
The Margaret Mead Filmmaker Awards
The Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award recognizes documentary filmmakers whose work displays artistic excellence and originality of technique while offering a new perspective on a culture or community remote from the majority of the festival audiences' experience. The seven contenders for this year's Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award, presenting U.S. premieres at the festival, are:
· Vit Klusák for All for the Good of the World and Nošovice
· Bettina Büttner for Kids
· Robert Nugent for Memoirs of a Plague
· Floris-Jan van Luyn for Rainmakers
· Caroline Leitner, Daniel Mazza, and Guiseppe Tedeschi for Small Kingdom of Lo
· Marian Kiss for Space Sailors, and
· Yuanchen Liu for To the Light
The Mead Award jury is led by Academy Award-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN, The Wrestler), who will be joined by Karen Cooper, director of New York City's Film Forum; Liz Garbus, Academy Award-nominated director (Bobby Fischer Against the World, The Farm: Angola, USA) and 2002 MacArthur Fellow Stanley Nelson, director of the Emmy-winning documentary The Murder of Emmett Till. The Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award winner will be announced on closing night.
Festival Opening and Closing Nights
The opening night film on Thursday, November 10, is the New York premiere of Grande Hotel, directed by Lotte Stoops. The Grande Hotel in the West African seaside town of Beira, Mozambique, was once the most opulent resort on the continent. Now, it is home to an estimated 3,000 squatters. Living in this outsize shell of former luxury, those on the margins of society create a self-enclosed community as the place they call home crumbles around them. As one voice in the film observes, the history of the hotel is the history of the country.
Closing night will feature the New York festival premiere of Flames of God, directed by Meshakai Wolf, on Sunday, November 13. The film follows Romani songwriter and poet Muzafer Bislim on his journey from Macedonia to France for the International Biennial of Poets in Paris. While seeking to publish his opus, a handwritten, 25,000-word dictionary containing what he believes to be some of the oldest and most obscure words in the Romani language, Bislim reunites with long-lost friends and family.
Mead Festival Special Series and Panels
The 35th Anniversary Retrospective Series presents a program of short films and several feature documentaries from the festival's past: N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman by John Marshall, Adrienne Miesmer, and Sue Cabezas; A Wife among Wives from David and Judith MacDougall's Turkana Conversations Trilogy; and Alanis Obomsawin's Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. Featured films also include Trance and Dance in Bali by Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, Les Maitres Fous by Jean Rouch, and Jero on Jero: A Balinese Trance Séance Observed by Linda Connor and Patsy and Timothy Asch.
In anticipation of the Museum's upcoming exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, opening November 19, the Mead Festival presents Dreams of Outer Space, a film series about the human quest to conquer space. Marian Kiss's Space Sailors is a look back at the Soviet Union's Intercosmos Program, which sent 13 cosmonauts from socialist countries on highly publicized missions. Christian Frei's Space Tourists contemplates the privatization of space travel and the implications for the earthbound. Museum astrophysicist Michael Shara, who is the curator of Beyond Planet Earth, will lead audiences on an armchair tour of the last 100 years of science-fiction cinema-from Georges Méliès's whimsical Le voyage dans la lune (1902) through Duncan Jones's existentialist Moon (2009)-to see what these filmmakers got right about the future of space travel and what they got wrong. In addition, Radiolab's Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich will host a listening party in the Hayden Planetarium's dome featuring previously aired interviews with Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's widow; Brian Greene, host of NOVA's The Elegant Universe; and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson. Abumrad and Krulwich will share behind-the-scenes anecdotes and field questions from the audience.