The Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, launched every autumn at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, is an annual event for lovers of documentary film, culture, and the unexpected. Begun in 1977 as a one-time event to mark the world-famous anthropologist’s seventy-fifth birthday and her fifty years at the museum, the festival, now celebrating twenty-five years of existence, continues to promote cross-cultural understanding through cinema. This year’s selection, presented in six programs, continues to offer a broad range of documentaries from both emerging and established film and video artists from around the world.
April 5 (Friday) 7 pm
April 9 (Tuesday) 9 pm
Directed by Johan Eriksson
Scotland 2000, video, color, 14 min.
Can a relationship with a pigeon be more important than one with a neighbor or a spouse? For the pigeon breeders of Glasgow, Scotland, friendships and family ties are often overlooked in the pursuit of a desirable bird. In this unusual portrait, bitter, unresolved rivalries emerge on quiet suburban lawns and in the sky above, where life-and-death dramas are played out in avian form.
Directed by Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly
Australia 2001, 35mm, color, 86 min.
With Professor Anne Boyd
The department of music at the University of Sydney and its chair, Professor Anne Boyd, a dedicated teacher and distinguished composer, are the unlikely focus of this embracing new documentary about labor issues. Set against a sound track of extraordinary music produced by the students and staff of the department, Facing the Music is a compelling indictment of the toll that cutbacks in government funding have taken on higher education. Gifted young students pursue the mysteries of musical creation while Professor Boyd fights to preserve basic standards after nearly a decade of ongoing funding cuts.
April 5 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Alejandra Navarro Smith
Mexico 2000, video, color, 24 min.
Spanish with English subtitles
Away from the headlines, Zapatista villagers strive for self-sufficiency in a country whose government routinely ignores the rights and concerns of its indigenous population. In a series of meditations on daily life, this quietly powerful film conveys the ways the revolution is fought in the cornfields, the kitchens, and the school of a rebel village in Chiapas, Mexico.
Directed by Katarina Rejger and Eric van den Broek
Netherlands 2001, video, 52 min.
Winner of the Amnesty International Award in Amsterdam in 2001, The Making of a Revolution employs a simple digital camera to follow OTPOR!, the Serbian student movement that began with only a dozen members and quickly grew to a people’s army of 50,000. OTPOR! (literally, "Resistance") took the lead in creating the nonviolent uprising that led to Slobodan Milosevic’s ultimate admission of electoral defeat and ouster in October 2000. With a diaristic voice-over narration, Rejger and van den Broek capture the strategies of the organization and argue for nonviolent actions as a model for global social change.
April 6 (Saturday) 7 pm
April 8 (Monday) 9 pm
Directed by Garin Nugroho
Indonesia 2000, video, b/w, 90 min.
With Ibrahim Kadir, Berliana Fibrianti, Jose Rizal Manua
Indonesian with English subtitles
In 1965, seven generals were killed in Indonesia. The Communist party was blamed, and hundreds of thousands of suspected members and sympathizers were imprisoned or executed. Ibrahim Kadir, a traditional poet from the village of Takengon, was accused of being a Communist activist and imprisoned for twenty-two days. In this startling dramatic feature, re-enactment is combined with dramatic monologue as Kadir plays himself: a detainee with an uncertain future who witnesses the anguish of those awaiting execution. The majority of the actors are residents of Takengon, who experienced this tragedy firsthand.
Directed by Aryo Danusiri
Indonesia 2000, video, color, 25 min.
Indonesian with English subtitles
This companion piece to A Poet is a portrait of Ibrahim Kadir and the art form of didong poetry, which the feature film uses as its dramatic form. At the time of the filming, didong poetry had been banned for eight months.
April 6 (Saturday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Lindsey Merrison
Myanmar/Germany/Switzerland 2001, video, color, 86 min.
Burmese with English subtitles
Somewhere between spirits and gods there are nats, those who suffered untimely deaths at the hands of ancient Burmese kings. Nats are believed to possess formidable powers, among them the ability to foretell the future and to cure health ailments. Weaving together dramatic performance and intimate interviews, this impressionistic portrayal of several seers offers unique insight into how nat culture provides both spiritual comfort and an outlet from daily life under a harsh political regime. The film was shot clandestinely in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
April 12 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Jean Rouch
US 1977, video, color, 30 min.
This frank and loving portrait of the famed anthropologist was filmed after the first Mead Festival by renowned French enthnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch. Together with John Marshall (N’ai:Story of a !Kung Woman), who served as sound recordist, he follows Mead from her office through the meandering corridors of the American Museum of Natural History and down Central Park West as she considers her legacy and muses about the future.
Directed by Amiel Courtin-Wilson , with Vincent Heimann
Australia 2000, video, color, 26 min.
With a German father, a Samoan mother, and a family based in Australia, the filmmaker ponders the nature of his identity. This multi-sensory video, rich in image, sound, and text, reveals contrasts between the mythical construction of Samoan culture that is filtered through books and films and what it means to be both outsider and insider to "Fa’a Samoa," the Samoan way.
Directed by Remy Weber
US 2001, video, color, 28 min.
This endearing film celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Stan Selub and Paul Miller as partners in both business and life. When interviewed together, their cheerful bickering gives the impression of utter contentment, but when each has his moments alone with the camera, insecurities emerge. This film is a moving portrait of a relationship that has seen the advent of the civil rights and the gay rights movements and the transformation of Greenwich Village from a bohemian haven into a commercial center.
April 12 (Friday) 9 pm
Directed by Sameera Jain
India 2001, video, color, 60 min.
In this new work we follow Indian midwives, or dais, from Rajasthan, Bihar, and Delhi as they tend to their patients, dispense traditional knowledge, and reflect on changing childbirth practices. Usually of low caste and rarely paid for their work, dais provide a service that is considered by some to be unhygienic and sinful but is nonetheless essential in areas where medical assistance is distant and expensive. These attitudes are contrasted with evidence of the increasing popularity of such practices in the West.
Directed by Melissa Llewelyn-Davies
UK 1986, video, color, 50 min.
Combining observational cinema with intimate interviews, this film explores in detail the workday experiences of a small group of nurses in a hospital in East London. Their words and work convey a compassion and caring that is distinct from the clinical distance maintained as a matter of course by doctors. The nurses struggle alongside their patients, and many—despite the long hours of emotionally draining and physically exhausting work—admit they cannot conceive of doing anything else.