Festival Theme: Re:Frame

About the 2016 Festival Theme:

In this unique moment, as we celebrate the 40th Margaret Mead Film Festival, the air is charged with tension and change.

The sense of division in our society—over politics, identity, and values—feels overwhelming, as though technology and media have isolated us in echo chambers of like-minded voices, unable to understand or connect with other points of view. But the Mead is all about connections.

This year, with the theme “Re:Frame,” we seek to reconnect, rediscover our common humanity, and rethink how we see the world around us. The Mead takes us beyond binaries, highlighting a world full of nuance and seeming contradiction. The stories told here are both surprising and deeply relatable. You will find the familiar in far-flung communities and discover empathy for people whose choices and circumstances feel unfathomable. This is, unmistakably, real life—in all of its complex, ordinary, sublime glory.

At the Mead, we consider how what we see on screen reveals just as much, if not more, about our own values and perspectives as the subjects we are observing. This year’s films push us to consider our own biases and preconceptions as the subjects reframe their own stories: What do “progressive politics” look like in the Middle East? How does our view of a resistance movement change when those resisting take up arms? What does “progress” for indigenous communities look like? Who are the winners and losers in a globalized economy?

Once again, the Mead takes you beyond the screen with an installation in the Museum’s Grand Gallery by Samoan artist Dan Taulapapa McMullin, and through dialogues about virtual-reality filmmaking, archival work, and the contemporary funding landscape for cultural storytelling. We also celebrate the 40th festival in a host of social events where filmgoers can mingle with filmmakers and community members, from our opening-night reception to daily Mead Mixers to the closing-night awards ceremony and Cuban dance party.

Since the very first Mead in 1977, the festival has been a signature program of the American Museum of Natural History, where Margaret Mead herself did groundbreaking work in anthropology. We continue to celebrate that legacy of innovation today, through this festival and a host of other programs and exhibitions that illuminate the connections between science and society. We invite you to return to the Museum in November for a new exhibition, ¡Cuba!, and in December to celebrate Kwanzaa. 

But for now, join us at the Mead to reflect, reconnect, and reimagine the possibilities in our ever-changing world.

Bella Desai | Director of Public Programs and Exhibition Education

Re:Frame | In Their Own Words

2016 filmmakers reflect on Re:Frame. See some of their responses below. Look for more throughout the individual film pages.

“Is it my frame as the director or is it their frame as the subject? For me it is our frame. As a documentary maker I am telling ‘their’ story. I want to be true to their story but it is inevitably through my lens, shaped by my experiences and points of view.” —Kim Webby | Director, Price of Peace

“I may never be able to escape having an agenda, but I want to shatter the notion that documentary is a window into reality. This is a movie. Yes, it has the power to magically transport you to another world, but throw out any ideas of purity: what you’re seeing is the product of an encounter.” —Devin Thomas | Director, Thiaroye by the Sea

“With Drokpa, there wasn’t a list of points to make, opinions to prove. Documentary filmmaking to me is an experience to be lived, a process of co-creating with the people and the place I would spend an extended period of time with.” —Yan Chun Su | Director, Drokpa

“For me the frame is a portal for our searching gaze as we build relationships. That’s why framing with extended close-ups of people’s faces is important to me, because when I yearn to know someone more deeply, I move closer.”  —Garrett Zevgetis | Director, Best and Most Beautiful Things

“As an anthropologist and filmmaker I conceive and create the frame through conversation and collaboration. As a group we simply take our time and work out every detail of theme, story, content, and construction as a group activity." —Steven Feld | Director, J.C. Abbey, Ghana’s Puppeteer   

“Getting to know someone, building trust, is not instantaneous. The best thing you can do is to be honest; honest with whoever is being documented and honest with yourself. When we have the ability to share one another’s stories, provide perspective, and raise awareness to an issue or cause, we ought to do so wisely." —Lindsay Skedgell | Director, Queen of Coney Island