AMNH Margaret Mead Film Festival To Debut 50 Documentaries

AMNH Margaret Mead Film Festival To Debut 50 Documentaries

The 2018 Margaret Mead Film Festival-the internationally recognized premier platform for documentary films-will screen 55 outstanding films representing 39 countries and host special events and performances from Thursday, October 18, through Sunday, October 21, at the American Museum of Natural History. The public can purchase tickets and see full film descriptions and trailers online at, and can create a personalized film schedule at

This year's festival selections-including 14 U.S. premieres and four North American premieres-will focus on the theme "Resilience in Motion," documenting stories that celebrate individuals who are breaking new ground or breaking free despite challenging circumstances. Honoring the legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead, this year's festival connects us to communities across the globe through portraits of strength and action by people who refuse to be cast as victims. The timely films premiering at the Mead this year will spark provocative conversations­-whether they're about battling voter suppression in Cumberland County, North Carolina, or Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram struggling to regain normalcy after their release from captivity, or transgender women in Tonga creating safe spaces for self-expression.

"Each year we are astonished by the breadth of human stories represented. These stories allow us to look past news cycles and learn the stories real of people who are pushing their communities forward," said Bella Desai, director of Public Programs and Exhibition Education. "Around the world and in our own backyard, there is a sense of moving forward and drive. There is a sense of momentum-even hope-to this year's Mead and we can't wait to press play together."

This year's films shed light on contemporary culture through the work of filmmakers from countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, France, Ukraine, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, South Korea, Poland, Turkey and Switzerland. With more than 50 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.

Festival Highlights, Opening and Closing Nights

The opening-night film on Thursday, October 18, is the New York premiere of Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram, written and produced by Karen Edwards and directed by Gemma Atwal. The film introduces the world to the young women whose kidnapping by Boko Haram, a militant terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, drew global attention and inspired the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls. Through exclusive interviews, we see how girls who managed to escape are adapting after their imprisonment and rebuilding their lives. The film will debut on HBO on Monday, October 22. There will be a discussion with the filmmakers after the screening.

This year's Mead features a new centerpiece presentation focusing on work from some of the world's Indigenous and community film collectives. Called Collectively, this focus within the Mead illuminates how media empowers communities whose voices were previously underrepresented. The three collectives showcased this year represent a diverse group of visual storytellers-East African filmmakers, Indigenous voices of the Brazilian Amazon, and Cambodia's multimedia memory-makers. These three groups provide training and access to filmmaking equipment as well as mentorship: Bophana Center of Cambodia, Maisha Film Lab of East Africa, and Vídeo nas Aldeias of Brazil.

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 serve to further illuminate the many cultures celebrated at this year's event. The Mead Festival will again offer a Mixed Media Lounge in the Museum's oldest gallery-the Northwest Coast Hall-so visitors can test drive the latest in experimental narratives capitalizing on new virtual reality, augmented reality, and more in this casual drop-in environment.

Throughout the festival, a centerpiece installation, Coppers from the Hood: Petrel, featuring a modern automobile hood covered in COPPER plate and emblazoned with traditional Haida drawings created by contemporary artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas from the Northwest Coast's Haida Nation will occupy the Grand Gallery. Yahgulanaas is a descendant of Charles Edenshaw, who more than 100 years ago created dozens of carvings for the Museum's Northwest Coast Hall (currently under renovation). In this installation, the artist fuses parallel signifiers of social and economic status: Haida COPPER shields, a traditional symbol of wealth, and cars, which can serve a similar function in contemporary society.

And on Saturday, October 20 at 2 pm, the Mead presents a provocative panel discussion, Whose Story Is It? Rethinking Cultural Representation in the Museum's Northwest Coast Hall, which examines how a New York museum can authentically present the voices and stories of First Nations communities across the continent. What is the history of cultural representation in museums, and where do we go from here? As the American Museum of Natural History restores its Northwest Coast Hall, these are questions at the core of the work. Among those included on the panel will be contemporary artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Executive Director and Curator of the Haida Gwaii Museum Nika Collison, American Museum of Natural History's Peter Whiteley, curator in the Division of Anthropology, and Lauri Halderman, vice president for Exhibition, in a conversation about the challenges and opportunities afforded by the restoration.

The Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award

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 11 contenders for this year's Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award, all presenting U.S. premieres at the festival, are:

Georgina Barreiro, director, Tara's Footprint

Four young siblings find their place within their community, a sacred Buddhist village high in the Himalayas. This observational documentary, set in the stunning landscapes of the Sikkim region of India, takes the viewer on a journey to explore the push and pull between contemporary culture and the ongoing tradition of Buddhist practice.

Maciek Bochniak, director, Ethiopiques-Revolt of the Soul

The jazz-funk music that came out of Addis Ababa in the 1960s and 70s was complex, fun, original, and nearly lost to the world. Meet the Ethiopian artists who forged this beautiful new sound amid constant political turmoil and repression, and feel the passion that has gone into keeping that sound alive.

Jean-Simon Chartier, director, Playing Hard

Video game MAKERS face enormous pressure to create the next great game as the industry has grown into one of the largest in entertainment, surpassing even the mammoth film and music industries. It requires creativity, discipline, and remaining cool under pressure to develop a project into a success. Does this team have what it takes?

?ukasz Borowski, director, Runners

A nearly 150-mile race brings out extremes of human experience, from pain to joy and everything in between. Follow three long-distance runners as they conquer one of Poland's most gruesome ultramarathons: a 52-hour race through rocky, wooded terrain, climbing and descending through a treacherous and equally breathtakingly beautiful mountainous region.

Helin Celik and Martin Klingenböck, directors, What the Wind Took Away

In 2015, ISIS massacred and imprisoned tens of thousands of ethnic Yazidis in northern Iraq. Meet two women who were forced to flee to the mountains with their families and settle into a refugee camp in southeastern Turkey. Their daily tasks-washing, building a kitchen tent, planting a bed of parsley-are overshadowed by the question of how long they will stay in this liminal space.

Christy Garland, director, What Walaa Wants

For eight years, young Walaa was raised by her siblings in the Balata Refugee Camp while her mother was in an Israeli prison. With her mother's release, Walaa focuses on her dream: joining the Palestinian Security Forces. Her strong personality and rebellious attitude land Walaa in constant trouble with her superiors, revealing the complexities of growing up female under occupation.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen, directors, Eastern Memories

From the Mongolian steppes to the diplomatic circles of Tokyo, Asia has seen rapid economic and social transformation in the last century. Narration drawn from the writings of a late-19th century linguist create a provocative sense of contrast against scenes of contemporary life.

Marcia Mansur and Marina Thomé, directors, The Sound of Bells

Church bells announce the time for work, rest, prayer, and celebration. But FOR THE PEOPLE of Minas Gerais, Brazil, the sound of bells transcends the everyday. As a group of young bell ringers develop a sense of pride in making their own sound reverberate through their town, we see how religious experience connects the community to something larger than themselves.

Tensin Phuntsog and Joy Dietrich, directors, Rituals of Resistance

A Tibetan-American filmmaker explores modes of resistance to Chinese occupation by speaking with activists across generations. A former Tibetan monk broke his vows and became a guerilla leader. The filmmaker's own mother followed the Dalai Lama's Middle Path and raised their family in America. A young Tibetan man attempted to self-immolate in 2006. How does the filmmaker understand his place in this struggle?

Anja Reiss, director, Truth Detectives

In international war crimes investigations, the cover-up is often part of the crime. Now, by harnessing the capabilities of modern mobile phones, satellite images, and GPS data, investigators can get to the truth of human rights violations with the help of the people affected. Counter to the fear that data collection will lead to a dystopian nightmare, human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers use surveillance tools to expose human rights abusers.

Carmen Torres, director, Amanecer (Dawn)

Carmen Torres never had a chance to ask about her birthmother because her adoptive mother died when Carmen was just 13. As an adult she is confronted with the impersonal nature of a bureaucratic adoption agency. When she decides to trace her biological roots to a rural community in Colombia, one question remains: why was she given up for adoption?

The 2018 Mead Award jury members include the award-winning documentary filmmaker Sarah Elder; director of the Academy Award-nominated The War Room (1993) Chris Hegedus; artist and anthropologist Toby Lee, who is also assistant professor of Cinema Studies at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts; Sam Pollard, a feature film and television video editor and documentary producer/director whose work includes August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand for PBS; and Heather Rae, an Academy Award-nominated producer whose work includes Frozen River, Netflix Originals Tallulah and Dude, I Believe in Unicorns, and The Dry Land. The 2018 winner will be announced on Sunday, October 21, at the festival's Award Ceremony, and the winning film will be shown in an encore presentation that night.

Additional Film Highlights

The Art of Moving, directed by Liliana Marinho de Sousa
Can the Syrian millennial creators of Daya Al-Taseh, a satirical daily web series that mocks ISIS recruitment videos, maintain their creative output while their world crumbles? In the face of violent threats, political upheaval, and ramped-up economic pressures, this young group of comedian-activists move from country to country struggling to keep their show-and themselves-alive and safe. (N.Y. Premiere)

A Bold Peace, directed by Matthew Eddy

Costa Rica disbanded its military 70 years ago and directed its resources toward education, health, and the environment. Since then it has earned the number one spot in the Happy Planet Index, a ranking of countries based on measures of environmental protection and the happiness and health of its citizens.

Capturing the Flag, directed by Anne de Mare

On Election Day in 2016, four volunteers stationed themselves at the polls in North Carolina, answering questions and working to ensure every vote counts. (N.Y. Premiere)

Ceres, directed by Janet van den Brand

From slaughtering pigs to tracking storms, four children in the boggy southwest of the Netherlands learn skills that have sustained their families for generations. This portrayal of farm life reveals the unique experiences of rural children. (N.Y. Premiere)

Ciao Babylon, directed by Kurt Reinhard and Christoph Schreiber

New York City is a wonderland of linguistic diversity with an estimated 800 spoken languages. But nearly half of these are at risk of extinction. Follow a dedicated team of linguists as they search for speakers of endangered languages before it's too late. (U.S. Premiere)

Uksuum Cauyai (The Drums of Winter), directed by Sarah Elder and Leonard Kamerling

Elders in the Yup'ik village of Emmonak, Alaska, on the Bering Sea coast prepare for a potlatch ceremony revealing the resilience of the community's rich music, dance, and spiritual traditions. Following a screening of the 1988 film, director Sarah Elder discusses her groundbreaking "community collaborative" model of filmmaking, developed over many years working with Alaska Native communities.

The Flying Friar (Lete?i Fratar), directed by Ljiljana Šišmanovi? and Davor Bori?

After years of war, Croatian culture has nearly disappeared from rural Bosnia and Herzegovina. Can an age-old artistic practice resurrect it? A joyful priest, Father Zvonko Marti? dedicates his life to celebrating and preserving traditional Croatian music and clothing, bringing together communities that have long been divided. (North American Premiere)

Genesis 2.0, directed by Christian Frei

What if scientists brought the woolly mammoth back from extinction? Straight out of speculative fiction, follow two brothers as they search for the key to a bioengineered future: woolly mammoth tusks. One, a scientific researcher, pursues his Jurassic Park dream of bringing the extinct mammal back to life while his brother searches for DNA-rich tusks in the frozen earth of the New Siberian Islands. (N.Y. Premiere)

The Groove Is Not Trivial, directed by Tommie Dell Smith

Scottish folk music was stigmatized as unsophisticated in Alasdair Fraser's youth, stifling his creativity. Now he is a master fiddle teacher. Follow his transformation as he travels the world teaching traditional Scottish music and leading a global revival of Scottish culture.

The Guardians, directed by Ben Crosbie and Tessa Moran

A quiet meditation on the migration of the monarch butterfly becomes a political melodrama as a Mexican Indigenous community goes to battle to protect their land, which is also the migratory home of the butterflies. (N.Y. Premiere)

Gurrumul, directed by Paul Damien Williams

Born blind, the late Yolngu musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu found his voice playing music native to his Aboriginal home in northern Australia and collaborating with the beloved Australian band Skinnyfish. Within reach of international pop stardom, Gurrumul faces a near impossible choice: stay home and lead his Aboriginal community or travel and share his gift?(N.Y. Premiere)

Leitis in Waiting, directed by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson

As the leitis or transgender women of Tonga fight for rights on a global level, they confront the bigotry of insurgent fundamentalists at home. (N.Y. Premiere)

Mamacita, directed by José Pablo Estrada Torrescano

An eccentric Mexican beauty tycoon invites her estranged grandson to make a film celebrating her rags-to-riches success story. But when the young filmmaker arrives at the extravagant castle-like compound that his 95-year old Mamacita calls home, he finds a story that is much darker, and much richer, than he imagined. (N.Y. Premiere)

Nothing is Forgiven, directed by Vincent Coen and Guillaume Vandenberghe

How much would you sacrifice to fight for your freedom of expression? Meet Zineb El Rhazoui, a Moroccan journalist and activist living in Paris, and follow her journey before, during, and after the attacks on the famous satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where she worked as a writer. (N.Y. Premiere)

Obscuro Barroco, directed by Evangelia Kranioti

What is the essence of a city that is constantly changing? Queer Brazilian icon Luana Muniz leads us through Rio de Janeiro in the months surrounding Carnival. (U.S. Premiere)

Personal Statement, directed by Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez

Three high schoolers from underfunded Brooklyn schools become leaders in the fight for educational equity, while helping their peers apply to college. (N.Y. Premiere)

Sex Spirit Strength, directed by Courtney Montour

How does the legacy of colonialism trickle down through generations? Two Indigenous youth in Canada share their personal stories of abuse and explore how these experiences shaped their struggles with gender identity and sexual health. (N.Y. Premiere)

The Sign for Love, directed by Elad Cohen and Iris Ben Moshe

Elad Cohen decides to have a baby-a hearing infant-with his best friend, Yaeli, who is also deaf. They raise the baby together, revealing the challenges of parenting and the ways that a child can repair a family. (N.Y. Premiere)

Warrior Women, directed by Christina King (Creek/Seminole) and Elizabeth Castle

Forty years fighting for Indigenous rights in America have bonded a mother and daughter as comrades in a multi-generational political struggle. (N.Y. Premiere)

Virgin Blacktop, directed by Charlie Samuels
A love of skateboarding brings nine suburban boys from around Nyack together as one of the best crews in the Northeast. Over the ensuing forty years, they go their own ways while maintaining the connection that helped popularize skateboarding in New York. (N.Y. Premiere)

For festival highlights or daily updates, visit Follow the Mead on Facebook at or Twitter using #MeadFilmFest. A festival trailer is also available on and YouTube. Sign up for the Mead newsletter by clicking "Film at the Museum" at this link to receive film details, event updates, and special promos.

An Emerging Visual Anthropologists Showcase on Saturday, October 20, presents four of the finest shorts to come out of the field of visual anthropology this year. Aria Zapata's Con o Sin Papeles

brings the reality of the migrant workforce to light through their stories and the eyes of a labor rights activist. Landfall by Stephanie Schiavenato explores the lingering traumatic effects of family separation at the U.S. border through the story of a mother and son who migrated from Colombia. Melissa Lefkowitz's Swim Lesson examines what if feels like to learn something new as an adult as she follows a novice swimmer over the course of one swim lesson. Walking Backwards into the Future by Anna Weinreich shows how an ancient design reimagined by Tongan artist Benjamin Work is projected into contemporary New York City and becomes part of a neighborhood's vibrant landscape of street art. Following the screenings, a Q&A with the filmmakers will be moderated by Faye Ginsburg and Pegi Vail, both of the New York University Graduate Program in Culture and Media, Department of Anthropology.

Mead Dialogues

The festival will feature a series of provocative presentations and interactive experiences, allowing audiences to engage in the conversation and contribute their own voices.

Dialogues include:

Collectively in Conversation

Sunday, October 21, 4:30 pm

Collectively highlights groundbreaking community-based media collectives. Using audio and visual media from the Bophana Center in Cambodia, Maisha Film Lab in East AFRICA and Vídeo nas Aldeias | Video in the Villages in the Brazilian Amazon, participants will discuss their work and its circulation. Joining us are acclaimed directors from the Bophana Center, Video nas Aldeias, and Maisha Film Lab.

Mead Mixers

October 19-21

Meet filmmakers and share your Mead experiences with other festivalgoers in our happy hours in Café on One or Café on 4.

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). Short films are paired with features or are part of the Emerging Visual Anthologist Showcase. The 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 special screenings) is $30 ($27 Members). The Student Pass (three programs of your choice, excluding the opening-night film and reception and special screenings) is $24. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 212-769-5200, online at, or at any of the Museum's admission desks. During the festival, on-site tickets can be purchased at the 77th Street Entrance. For more information, the public should visit or call 212-769-5305.


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

Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Support for the Margaret Mead Film Festival is provided, in part, by the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc. and THE FAMILY of Frederick H. Leonhardt.

Support also provided by

Mexican Cultural Institute New York

Dutch Culture USA

Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany New York

Consulate General of Israel in New York

Consulate General of Canada in New York

Quebec Délégation Générale New York

Polish Cultural Institute

Consulate General of Spain New York

Spain Arts and Culture

Consulate General of Switzerland in New York

American Museum of Natural History (

The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world's preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including those in the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State's official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation's 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt's enduring legacy of conservation. The Museum's five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 34 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree. Beginning in 2015, the Richard Gilder Graduate School also began granting the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, the only such freestanding, museum program. Annual visitation has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum's exhibitions and Space Shows are seen by millions more in venues on six continents. The Museum's website, mobile apps, and MOOCs (massive open online courses) extend its scientific research and collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to additional audiences around the globe. Visit for more information.

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