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Margaret Mead Festival - Overview of the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival

Held Annually at New York's American Museum of Natural History


The Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, which takes place annually at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the longest-running, premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States.

Known for encompassing a broad spectrum of nonfiction works that range from indigenous community media to experimental nonfiction films, and from animation to hybrid forms of storytelling, the festival presents an outstanding program of works covering diverse and challenging subjects and representing a wide range of issues and perspectives. In addition, the festival runs public forums for discussion with filmmakers. educators and authorities on the subjects covered in the films.

The Mead Festival's mission is to screen documentaries that lead to greater understanding of the diversity and complexity of the peoples and cultures found around the globe. In the 35 years since its founding, the festival has developed a unique portfolio of films and a dedicated following. While honoring the hundred-year-old tradition of ethnographic filmmaking that uses the camera's lens to shed light on remote or misunderstood cultures, and always including a number of films of the classic cinema verite style, recent Mead Festival programs have expanded to include selections that reflect the technological advances that have given rise to new forms of nonfiction storytelling and new approaches to the cinematic idiom that have allowed filmmakers and audiences greater access to distinct communities around the corner and/or diverse cultures in remote places around the world.

Each Fall, the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival takes place at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Following the festival, some of the films are packaged into a festival tour with visits to universities and museums across the United States and around the globe.

Comments from Festival Organizers

Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival Creative Director Ariella Ben-Dov comments that films selected for screening at the festival spotlight the struggle to preserve traditions and cultures against great odds. "Every year the Mead Festival introduces audiences to cultures and communities that might otherwise be inaccessible, says Ben-Dov,"and having the filmmakers present to speak about their experiences while researching and shooting the film adds to our understanding of how important and difficult preserving traditions and cultures can be."

Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History, comments on the festival's name and mission: "By training a lens on the people and experiences of our own time, the festival 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. Each year, the Mead Festival illustrates the profound richness and variety of human experience in today's world."

The Margaret Mead Filmmaker Awards

The festival presents the Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award in recognition of 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."

Past Mead Festivals and the Traveling Festival

Always seeking to tackle diverse and challenging cultural and social issues, the Mead Festival has introduced New York audiences to many highly acclaimed nonfiction films, including the Oscar-winning documentary, The Blood of Yingzhou District (2006); the Oscar-winning animated short, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation (2005); The Future of Food (2004); Power Trip (2003); and Spellbound (2002), among others.

The Mead Festival boasts innovative programming and a number of festival 'firsts,' ranging from being one of the first U.S. festivals to feature indigenous media production to being the first venue to present the classic documentary, Paris Is Burning (1990) about the urban transgender community.

As part of its commitment to make documentaries available to a wider range of audiences, the Mead Festival presents an annual touring version, which begins in January, with visits to universities, museums and film centers around the United States and abroad.

Festival Information and Tickets

All Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival screenings take place at the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, between 78 and 81 Streets, in New York City.

Opening and closing night tickets are $15. All other screenings are $12. Members/students/senior citizens should call or check online for discounted rates.

Short films may be grouped together into single programs.

The Friend of the Festival Pass (including the opening night film and reception for two, plus six other programs) is $99 (a $150 value).

The Mead Festival has eliminated the ticket service charge, so attendees can save money when ordering tickets in advance by phone or online.

Tickets may also be purchased online at the American Museum of Natural History Website or by phone at 212-769-5200, or at any of the Museum's admission desks.

Programs and schedules for the current festival, with full film descriptions and trailers, can also be found at the museum's Website. The public can also create a personalized film schedule.

The 2011 Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival Program

For more information, visit the museum's Website or call 212-769-5305.

About the American Museum of Natural History

The Margaret Mead Film Festival is organized under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History. Founded in 1869, the Museum is one of the world's leading scientific, educational, and cultural institutions, with 45 permanent exhibition halls, and numerous galleries for temporary exhibitions, as well as the Rose Center for Earth and Space with the Hayden Planetarium, and state-of-the-art research laboratories supporting the work of five active research divisions that employ more than 200 scientists.

In addition, the museum has one of the largest natural history libraries in the Western Hemisphere and a permanent collection of more than 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts.

Approximately 5-million visitors from around the world visited the Museum in 2010, and its exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents.

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