The Margaret Mead Film Festival, the American Museum of Natural History’s annual festival of anthropological film named after the famed anthropologist, has announced the seven nominees for its Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award. The seven US premieres were chosen because they “push the boundaries of visual anthropology as they take audiences deeply into contemporary societal challenges around the world.”
The award’s winner will be chosen by a jury led by “Black Swan” filmmaker Darren Aronofsky and also includes Film Forum director Karen Cooper, “The Farm: Angola, USA” director Liz Garbus, and Stanley Earl Nelson, Jr., the producer of “The Murder of Emmitt Till.”
The 2011 nominees for the Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award (with descriptions provided by the American Museum of Natural History are:
All for the Good of the World and Nosovice (Vše Pro Dobro Světa a Nošovic), directed by Vit Klusak (Czech Republic)
Czech provocateur Vit Klusák is at it again, turning his attention to another globalization skirmish. As a major automobile manufacturer locates a new factory to the small village of Nošovice in the Czech Republic, Klusak details the now-altered lives of its inhabitants using feature film cinematography, Brechtian techniques of participatory drama, and old-fashioned journalistic muckraking. The heart-wrenching story of neighbor pitted against neighbor, the forceful sale of land, and a corporate giant’s broken promise to contribute “all the best for the world” is told through a number of poignant, and at times humorous, turns.
Kinder, directed by Bettina Büttner (Germany)
As the sun’s rays stream through Bavarian woods, four young boys dart among the trees, engrossed in a joyful game of hide-and-seek. These brief moments of innocent abandon furnish a stark contrast to the reality of their lives in a German orphanage. First-time filmmaker Bettina Büttner observes and captures moments of startling candor. Intrigued by the preternaturally thoughtful Marvin, she documents him after he moves back home. Shot in crisp black-and-white, Kinder expresses the indelibility of a dysfunctional childhood on young minds.
Memoirs of a Plague, directed by Robert Nugent (Australia)
Visiting entomologists, local farmers, and insecticide bomber pilots brace for the inevitable and track locust invasions predicted in Ethiopia, Egypt, and Australia. Told with a storyteller’s relish for suspense, Memoirs of a Plague mixes archival and contemporary footage of plans to eradicate the pests with the director’s own remarkable macro-photography of the misunderstood and maligned “hopper,” which is doing only as nature intended.
Rainmakers, directed by Floris-Jan van Luyn (China)
With striking cinematography, Floris-Jan van Luyn chronicles persistence, hope, and heroism in stories of a fisherwoman’s efforts to clean up a polluted river, a Hunan housewife’s demands to shut down a nearby factory, a Beijing woman’s work to organize a mass protest against a noxious incinerator, and a Mongolian shepherd’s plan to reclaim desiccated pastureland. Bravely facing bureaucracy, greed, and violence, they fight for the most basic of human rights: clean air and water.
Small Kingdom of Lo, directed by Caroline Leitner, Daniel Mazza, Giuseppe Tedeschi (Nepal)
Man and nature meet at the rhythm of an archaic life in a remote village in the Himalayan highlands. Through the voices of three diverse residents—a veteran trader, a 14-year-old Buddhist nun, and a young man dreaming of America—the conflicted hopes of those from a traditional community on the cusp of change are revealed.
Space Sailors (Fliegerkosmonauten), directed by Marian Kiss (Germany, Poland)
Hand-selected from hundreds of fighter pilots trained to protect their motherlands, the men of the Soviet Union’s Intercosmos Programme stood as the quintessential illustration of their nation’s idealized views of manhood and patriotism. They hailed from Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Vietnam, Cuba, Mongolia, and Afghanistan, the children of farmers and factory workers. Filmmaker Marian Kiss, a Hungarian with childhood memories of her own country’s cosmonaut, visits ten space sailors to uncover what happened to these heroes after the fall of communism.
To The Light, directed by Yuanchen Liu (China)
The bright lights of China’s booming economy are powered by the suffering of its miners, who work deep in the perilous coal shafts around the country. The miners dig armed only with pickaxes, and the shafts are supported by rudimentary wooden props. To The Light follows them into the dangerous darkness, even capturing the final moments of one unfortunate miner. The story depicts three coal mining families in Sichuan Province, West China, revealing their untold struggle to escape the mines and poverty, and the human cost of China’s industrialization.