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The American Museum of Natural History Presents The 2014 MARGARET MEAD FILM FESTIVAL: “PAST FORWARD,” 10/23-26

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The Margaret Mead Film Festival, themed "Past Forward," explores how cultural touchstones needn't be trapped in amber but can serve as important guides for modern life, during its 2014 program from October 23 to October 26. Featuring a broad spectrum of creative storytelling-including interactive documentaries, performances, and a multi-media installation-the Mead Festival strives to illuminate the diversity of peoples and cultures from around the world, and offers intimate forums for discussion with filmmakers, film protagonists, and world-renowned scholars.

How do traditions help cultures survive and thrive? Answering that question from a variety of perspectives is at the core of the 2014 Margaret Mead Film Festival. This year, the festival's selections-more than 40 films from 28 countries-will focus on how tradition moves cultural values and identities forward while seizing relevance to support contemporary life issues.

Among the festival's wide selection of films this year are:

  • Buckskin, directed by Dylan McDonald (US Premiere)

The Kaurna people of South Australia were pronounced extinct in 1931, but almost a century later, a cultural and linguistic revival is underway, thanks to Vincent "Jack" Buckskin, whose efforts are captured gracefully by indigenous filmmaker Dylan McDonald. Buckskin has spent his 20s traveling the country, teaching seminars in the Kaurna language, offering hundreds of young people access to their roots and reopening questions of aboriginal identity in urban Australia.

  • The Darkside, directed by Warwick Thornton

Take a plunge into the hereafter with The Darkside, a stunning documentary hybrid that gathers indigenous ghost stories from across Australia and sets them elegantly to film. The tales are delivered verbatim in monologue form by some of Australia's most beloved actors, framed by lush and fussily composed backdrops with a cinematographic flair that conjures Wes Anderson.

  • Let's Get the Rhythm, directed by Irene Chagall (World Premiere)

Through wars, through migrations, across language barriers and oceans, young girls connect with each other through thousands of hand clapping variants, which are as ancient as they are global. Let's Get the Rhythm chronicles the rhythmic and recreational practices of girls on playgrounds around the world, as guided by three eight-year old informants from diverse cultural backgrounds in the New York area.

  • Little White Lie, directed by Zeresenay Mehari

Lacey Schwartz was raised in a typical upper-middle-class household in Woodstock, N.Y., with two loving parents and an emphasis on Jewish tradition and heritage. Only as a teenager does she begin to piece together a very big family secret, and her own racial identity; her biological father is in fact a black man with whom her mother had an affair.

  • My Prairie Home, directed by Chelsea McMullan

By turns melancholy, meditative, and playful, this feature documentary about the transgender Canadian singer-songwriter Rae Spoon is a road movie, a coming-of-age story, a musical, and, at the same time, a clever subversion of all these genres. Impressionistically combining interviews, performances, and delicately rendered musical sequences, the film reveals Spoon as a deeply soulful individual whose perspective and situation is at once unique and speaks to the universality of human experience.

  • Walking Under Water, directed by Eliza Kubarska

Walking Under Water follows a Badjao compressor diver, Alexan, as he teaches his 10-year-old nephew, Sari, everything he knows-from dangerous fishing techniques to wisdom about the underwater world. While Alexan refuses to accept that the world of his ancestors is gone, Sari is torn between his longing to be a fisherman and the tug of the new world in the form of a nearby resort.

  • Sepideh-Reaching for the Stars, directed by Berit Madsen

When Iranian teenager Sepideh discovers an unquenchable interest in astronomy, she finds more than a few barriers between her lifestyle in the countryside and her professional aspirations-including an aggressively conservative uncle, marital expectations, and financial struggles. Yet she is able to peek through the clouds of circumstance at the great beyond, expressing herself in a series of letters to her late hero, Albert Einstein.

The Margaret Mead Film Festival is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The American Museum of Natural History gratefully acknowledges HBO for its support of the Mead Films and cultural programming for New York City Public High Schools.

For festival news and updates, please visit the Margaret Mead Film Festival website

The Margaret Mead Film Festival is proudly produced by the American Museum of Natural History.

Thursday, October 23, to Sunday, October 26, 2014

American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street
Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Theater, Kaufmann Theater, Linder Theater, and
Leonhardt People Center

Tickets: $15 opening- and closing-night screenings ($12 for Members, seniors, and students);
$12 all other screenings ($10 for Members, seniors, and students)
Tickets can be purchased by phone at 212-769-5200, online at, or at any of the American Museum of Natural History admission desks. For more information or to request a schedule by mail, the public should call 212-769-5305 or visit

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