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Playing at the 2013 Mead: Four Looks at Cultural Tourism

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This year's Margaret Mead Film Festival features 39 great documentary films from around the world. Each week until the festival, which begins October 17, we'll feature a preview of some of the films and themes. 

Four films at this year's Margaret Mead Film Festival raise provocative questions about the motivations and economics of cultural tourism—travelling to understand how other people live.

Makings its U.S. premiere on Friday, October 18, Sarah Gavron and David Katznelson’s Village at the End of the World focuses on a tiny Inuit village of Niaqornat in northern Greenland that encourages day-trippers from European cruise ships, one part of a larger story about the villagers struggle to survive in the face of a shrinking population and lack of industry. Directors Gavron and Katznelson are 2013 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Contenders.

Watch the trailer.


On Saturday, October 19, the world premiere of Gringo Trails will offer a wide-ranging exploration of the unintended cultural and environmental consequences of 30 years of tourism in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The film is directed by Pegi Vail, a 2013 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Contender.

Watch the trailer.


On Sunday, October 20, a tribute screening of Australian filmmaker Dennis O’Rourke’s 1988 classic Cannibal Tours (see image below) will be screened along with the U.S. premiere of Framing the Other, a 2012 film with contemporary echoes of O’Rourke’s seminal work.

Cannibal Tours (Mead 2013)

O’Rourke’s Cannibal Tours was originally released to much acclaim and controversy, challenging viewers to consider a discomfiting question: who are the cultural oddities in the film—the indigenous people of a remote corner of Papua New Guinea or their Western visitors? With both dry humor and objective detachment, Cannibal Tours explores the sometimes amusing, sometimes uncomfortable differences that emerge when “civilized” and “primitive” people meet and the tense bargain struck in the selling and buying of souvenirs.

Similarly, Framing the Other takes viewers on an excursion into southern Ethiopia, where the lip plates and vibrant jewelry of the women of the Mursi tribe have spawned a lively tourist trade. Western visitors drop in by the busloads to pay to take photographs—the more embellished the adornment, the higher the price. Throughout the course of the 25-minute film, one senses a deep disconnect between the locals and the tourists and a missed opportunity for authentic exchange. The directors of Framing the Other, Willem Timmers, who will be in attendance, and Ilja Kok came to the project having served as tour guides in the region.

Watch the trailer.


The double screening is part of a celebration of O’Rourke, who died in June, and his contribution to the field of cultural storytelling, including a discussion of his legacy and the continuing issues around cultural tourism.

To purchase tickets to Cannibal Tours (with Framing the Other), click here, and look for the orange "Buy Tickets" button. 

To purchase tickets to Gringo Trails, click here.

To purchase tickets to Village at the End of the World, click here.

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