The many social and environmental challenges facing our increasingly globalized world form the basis of several films showing at New York’s American Museum of Natural History for the Margaret Mead Film Festival this coming weekend. Named in honor of one of the first scientists to recognize the value of film in anthropological study, the festival presents films from all over the world with features, shorts, animation, and experimental cinema on the bill. In addition to the film program, there will be conferences and workshops addressing the topics raised. Here’s a look at the Latin American-themed films on show.
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Directors: José Cohen, Lorenzo Hagerman
This thought-provoking piece of social documentary examines the problems faced by many people in Mexico City seeking access to clean water. Pollution and economic factors can cause serious problems in obtaining this most basic of human rights. The future well-being of our densely populated societies will rely heavily on our ability to develop a sustainable form of living. The screening, at 7pm on Saturday October 25, will be followed by a talk from Claudio Lomnitz, a professor in anthropology at Columbia University and father to the film’s protagonist Enrique Lomnitz.
Director: Adrian Ortiz Maciel
For residents of the President Aleman Urban Housing Complex in Mexico City, just getting by has become a struggle since federal support was withdrawn. The elevators of the housing complex become windows through which we can observe the daily interactions and habits in a microcosm of metropolitan existence.
El Corral y El Viento
The Corral and the Wind
Director: Miguel Hilari
Director Miguel Hilari visited his father’s birthplace in the Andean village of Santiago de Okola in Bolivia to document the cultural and social realities of its inhabitants. Although Hilari is descended from the people there, his external upbringing makes him an outsider. A thoughtful treatise on identity, which also confirms that kids in remote mountain villages are just as likely to stick their middle finger up at a camera as they are anywhere else.
O Mestre e o Divino
Master and Divino
Director: Tiago Campos
Spain, Brazil, Xavante
The Xavante are an indigenous people from the Brazilian Amazon. Adalberto is a German missionary who has lived with the Xavante for over fifty years, while Divino is a young member of the community. Sharing a passion for filmmaking, they decided to document their surroundings from a variety of angles in order to examine the relationships and conflicts which define their roles and positions in Xavante society. This dual character study was captured by a third filmmaker, Brazilian director Tiago Campos.
Flor de Toloache
Director: Jenny Schweitzer
This four-minute film follows New York’s (probable) first all-female mariachi band, led by Mireya Ramos. Although mariachi is traditionally a male-dominated form of musical expression, Schweitzer’s short looks at how these women challenge concepts of gender as they liven up the New York subway system.
Director: Javier Corcuera
The title refers to a form of greeting in Ayacucho Quechua. Here, it is also given to Corcuera’s expansive documentary tracing Peru’s rich musical heritage, as he travels the country chronicling the wide range of styles and sounds. Whether in the Andean highlands, the coastal regions, or in Lima’s working-class barrios — music is a fundamental aspect of Peru’s cultural identity, captured here in resonant detail.
Director: Christine Mladic Janney
Elvia Ambia has taken it upon herself to promote indigenous Quechua languages among her Peruvian compatriots living in the multicultural hub of New York. Quechua is classified as an endangered language by the United Nations, giving Elvia’s mission a greater importance than simply maintaining a cultural link to her roots. If the language is to be preserved, it is vital that organizations and communities actively participate in its promotion and protection.
Ni Aquí, Ni Allá
Neither Here Nor There
Director: Gabriela Bortolamedi
Getting a solid education is just one of the challenges encountered by undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bortolamedi’s film follows a Mexican girl as she negotiates her way through college while her parents struggle to make ends meet and provide her with the opportunities they themselves lacked.
Santa Cruz del Islote
Director: Luke Lorentzen
Apparently the world’s most densely populated island is not Japan, but tiny Santa Cruz del Islote fifty miles off Colombia’s Atlantic coast. Although its population has long managed on its own, the island is growing ever more dependent on external factors in the face of globalization and environmental concerns. Lorentzen’s film depicts a beautiful and peaceful place which, like so many other parts of the world, faces an uncertain future.
The Margaret Mead Film Festival runs October 23 – 26. Click here for details.