Margaret Mead Film Festival

About the Mead

The American Museum of Natural History's Margaret Mead Film Festival features documentary films, shorts, and other media that increase our understanding of the complexity and diversity of peoples and cultures around the world.  

Inspired by anthropologist Margaret Mead's groundbreaking use of film and photography, the Mead celebrates ever-changing modes of storytelling, new technologies, and increased access to communities near and far while presenting the best in non-fiction film and hybrid works.

Fall 2021 Update

Given the ongoing pandemic, the Margaret Mead Film Festival will not be offered as an in-person experience at the Museum this fall. Instead, we are offering a series of condensed online Mead Moments, including film screenings and conversations with filmmakers and others, as part of the online convening Dismantling Eugenics, which will take place September 27-October 2 as a counter centennial to the 2nd International Eugenics Congress of 1921. 

For the Mead Moments, three preeminent film curators—Jason Ryle (ImagineNative Film Festival), Mahen Bonetti (African Film Festival), and Lawrence Carter-Long (Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund/Cinema Shift)—are collaborating with the Mead Film Festival to create a series of online film screenings and pre-recorded round-table conversations that give central focus to the voices and stories from communities who were targeted by the 20th-century eugenics movement and who are living with the legacies of eugenicist ideals today.

The Mead Moments will be available online beginning Monday, September 27, and are free with registration for the Dismantling Eugenics conference. All programs will remain available to conference participants through Saturday, October 2. 

Mead Moment: North American Indigenous Short Films Program

Monday, September 27, 8:30 pm | 63 minutes

Documentary has been a critical form of Indigenous nation-building, sovereignty, and mobilization. These three short documentaries share intimate and powerful portraits of Indigenous people at the forefront of change and cultural empowerment in the face of immense challenges. This program includes three short films:

  • Becoming Nakuset | Victoria Anderson-Gardner and Felicity Justrabo | Canada | 2020 | 13 mins – a brief and deeply personal portrait of an Indigenous adoptee who struggles to find her identity and sense of self-worth and purpose.
  • Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair | Alanis Obomsawin | Canada | 2021 | 30 mins – an exploration of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Truth & Reconciliation process led by First Nations lawyer and chairman of that process.
  • Chasing the Signal | E'sha Hoferer and Chris Lanier | USA | 2019 | 20 mins – a raw, first-person account of what happened at Standing Rock, as detailed by a young man who streamed the events live on Facebook.

Mead Moment: North American Indigenous Shorts Post-Screening Conversation

Monday, September 27, 9:30 pm | 43 mins

After watching the short films, join us for a powerful conversation that highlights the connections between eugenics and the issues facing Indigenous communities in North America today. Film curator Jason Ryle moderates a discussion between scholar and producer Dr. Joely Proudfit and Naomi Johnson, executive director at ImagineNATIVE film festival. Explore the connections between the racial hierarchies established by eugenics and the residential school and adoption policies in Canada and sovereignty issues in the US. 

Mead Moment: The Letter Film Screening

Tuesday, September 28, 8 pm | 81 minutes

The Letter is a tribute to the fearless spirit of 94-year-old Margaret Kamango, filmed with a gentle pace and incredible closeness. Karisa's city life is interrupted when his grandmother is labelled a witch and receives a death threat. Returning to his village to investigate, he finds that a frenzied mixture of consumerism and Christianity is turning hundreds of families against their elders. Karisa and others soon rally around Margaret, bringing an intimate family portrait to a dramatic climax. 

Mead Moment: The Letter Post-Screening Conversation

Tuesday, September 28, 9:30 pm | 37 mins

Co-directors (and partners) Maia von Lekow and Christopher King are joined by executive producer and founder of East African Documentary Film Fund Judy Kibinge to highlight the unique vantage point of storytelling by members of the community documented in The Letter. The wide-ranging conversation touches on the twin legacies of eugenics and colonialism, exploring land rights, and the collision of traditional and colonial practices as well as where the films main subjects are now and the community’s reaction to the film.

Mead Moment: What Price Progress? Eugenics & Disability in the Modern World

Wednesday, September 29, 8:30 pm | 57 mins

There’s a new drug on the horizon that promises to make people with dwarfism taller—which, if successful, risks erasing the very community it seeks to serve. As Little People grapple with an uncertain future, director Julie Wyman confronts her own complicated diagnosis of dwarfism. Join a conversation about this work-in-progress film with director Julie Wymann and film curator and disability rights activist Lawrence Carter-Long


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Mead Moments are signature online programs presented by the Margaret Mead Film Festival.

Generous support for the Margaret Mead Film Festival has been provided by the family of Margaret Mead.

The Margaret Mead Film Festival is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. 

The Margaret Mead Film Festival is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

Support for the Margaret Mead Film Festival is provided, in part, by the family of Frederick H. Leonhardt.