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Traveling Festival

Bring international documentaries to your community with the 2012 Margaret Mead Traveling Film Festival.

The 2012 Traveling Festival features select titles from the 2011 Margaret Mead Film Festival. The Mead Festival screens documentaries that increase our understanding of the complexity and diversity of the peoples and cultures that populate our planet. It has evolved with the times while maintaining its important history, growing steadily to reflect the ever-evolving incarnations of storytelling, which remain steeped in the documentary tradition.

Program 1: Because We Were Born

Jean-Pierre Duret and Andrea Santana • 2008 • 90 min. • Brazil


At a truck stop in Brazil's arid northeastern state of Pernambuco, Nego and Cocada live by their wits, picking up odd jobs to earn one or two measly reais. Alternately despairing and hopeful, these young boys on the brink of manhood carry around their small dreams, spun from the imperfect examples of the grownups that surround them. French filmmaker Duret and Brazilian filmmaker Santana show us the world through the eyes of Nego and Cocado, as their neighbors make due with next to nothing and the transient truckers seem to have it all. Whether scavenging leftover food from restaurant plates, sleeping in a benevolent driver's cab, or doing chores at home after a long day's hustle, they turn to each other for comfort and company and wonder what no one of such a tender age should have to wonder: what will become of me?

Program 2: In the Garden of Sounds (Nel giardino dei suoni)

Nicola Bellucci • 2010 • 85 min. • Italy, Switzerland


Tucked into a small Swiss hamlet, Wolfgang Fasser's studio is filled with cymbals, drums, and other noisemakers, including a therapeutic table built on a bed of musical strings. A former physical therapist who became blind at age 22 from the genetic disease retinitus pigmentosa, he now works with developmentally disabled children, using music and natural sounds to reach through each child's particular physical and mental barrier. Whether capturing birdsong in the early dawn, calming a restless patient, or attending to the townspeople's various complaints at the local market, Fasser moves through the world fluidly and purposefully, beyond his own sensory limitations while helping others transcend theirs. In the end, his profound appreciation for the subtleties of sound draws attention to the paucity of perception for which most of us settle.

Program 3: A Mountain Musical (Eisenwurzen: Das Musical)

Eva Eckerták • 2008 • 52 min. • Austria


A man tears out his wife's hair. A young poacher is shot down by his father. A pig is violently butchered. For the people of the rural and industrial communities that surround Erzberg, a mountain in the Austrian Alps that has been mined for its iron ore since Roman times, these lyrics comprise the stories of their lives. Far from the sanitized image associated with Tyrolean folk singers, these hard-working, hard-drinking people from the heart of Bavaria recount in their crisp, rippling yodel the grim and gay details of their lives with equal gusto. With a fine art photographer's eye for composition and the patience of a paid-by-the-hour psychiatrist, Austrian filmmaker Eva Eckert circles Erzberg coaxing the old-timers into performing these songs. The resulting film is both an ethnomusicology and a humorous but no-less-moving portrait of an all-but-vanished Alpine culture.

Program 4: Plug & Pray (Von Computern und anderen Menschen)

Judith Malek-Mahdavi and Jens Schanze • 2009 • 91 min. •Germany, Italy, Japan, United States


Fifty years ago, computers in their current form were the stuff of science fiction. Today, we rely upon them to control the electric grid, fly planes, store our collective knowledge, fight our wars, communicate with friends, and teach our children. The next generation of technology researchers envision robots as the future. From adult-sized, flesh-toned babysitters to nano-robots that circulate in our cells improving our DNA, robots will be good for us. At least that's the assumption of scientists in labs in Boston, Genoa, Tokyo, and Hamburg as they move relentlessly forward with their cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence, among them the American inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, now spending millions on a way to 'backup our brains.' Biology, as they see it, is flawed and only risks improvement as it merges with these sophisticated machines. In Plug & Pray, one man comes forward to doubt the wisdom of the goal. Joseph Weizenbaum, whose work in A.I. begat the technology used in cruise missiles, urges us to reconsider our wholehearted embrace of technology before robots become as ubiquitous as iPods.

Program 5: Shooting with Mursi

Olisarali Olibui and Ben Young • 2009 • 57 min. • Ethiopia


Deep in the heart of Ethiopia's fertile Omo Valley, the Mursi are a nomadic people ruled by consensus and the wisdom of elders. Uprooting seasonally in order to graze their cattle and avoid the rainy season, they now find themselves encircled by three national parks, none of which they are allowed to enter. As roads that will crisscross their land are being built to facilitate tourism and recreational game hunting, the Mursi and their culture face extinction. A leader in his age group, the English-speaking Olisarali Olibui takes a digital camera among his tribe, capturing a candid portrayal of his people and their customs as they face the modern world and unwanted change that seems inevitable.

Program 6: There Once Was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho

Briar March • 2010 • 80 min. • Papua New Guinea


The Takuu live in a Polynesian paradise. Among the towering palms, crystal blue waters, and white-sand beaches of an atoll off the shores of Papua New Guinea, the people of Nukutoa carry on without electricity and free from notions of private ownership. But the rising South Pacific is eroding their shores, threatening their taro crops and shoreline huts, forcing them to accept federal subsidies to survive. When the government offers to relocate the islanders to the mainland before the sea water overtakes them, the Takuu request instead that environmental scientists investigate a way to save their home. Told from the perspective of three main characters, There Once Was an Island bears witness to the local effects of global climate change on a culture deeply rooted to its geography. Combining thoughtful interviews with spectacular outdoor cinematography, New Zealand documentarian Briar March creates a heartbreaking portrait of a people who must choose either to move away or die with their island.