Festival Theme: Thresholds

About the 2015 Festival Theme:

This year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival finds us on the brink—in the moment of transformation, at the boundary between worlds, and on the edge of our seats. With the pace of globalization ever quickening, the Mead focuses on the borders and boundaries between cultural spaces. In some cases, these borders provide a sense of identity and security while, in others, they are barriers that we need to break through. As we examine these often porous and dynamic edges, we find fascinating stories both of resisting change and embracing it. 

A Uruguayan ballet company rises from a shambles to the world stage. An Austrian village becomes a model for a Chinese utopia. An Indian girl sold into marriage escapes to become a thriving businesswoman. Young autistic adults in Ohio experience their first prom. These stories reflect the human face of crossroads that transform lives and communities—sometimes for better, sometimes tragically for worse.

In the spirit of Margaret Mead, this year’s festival continues to push the boundaries of visual anthropology and documentary film and involve you in the conversation. We feature a centerpiece installation in the Museum’s Grand Gallery throughout the festival by Mongolian-born artist Tuguldur Yondonjamts, who presents a visual conversation connecting opposite ends of the world.  Our signature dialogues, including Culture Labs and the post-screening conversations, invite interactivity with filmmakers, protagonists, and scholars.

The American Museum of Natural History is proud to present the 39th annual Mead Film Festival. Through the festival—as well as research, exhibitions, and education—the Museum strives to deliver a vibrant, relevant understanding of contemporary anthropology to inspire dialogue on just what makes us humans.  

This year’s Mead leads you across the threshold into new discoveries. Take this leap with us.

Bella Desai | Director of Public Programs and Exhibition Education

Thresholds | In Their Own Words

 2015 filmmakers reflect on Thresholds. See some of their responses below. Look for more throughout the individual film pages.

A young man, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and an open long-sleeved jacket over a shirt, standing in a field beside high grass with mountains in the background.

“…We create boundaries to identify, group and categorize… Nations, cultures and religions teach us who we are and what to believe… Banana Pancakes and the Children of Sticky Rice is a poetic film about desire. I want to reflect on how relative it is, as the grass always seems to be greener on the other side." – Dan Veldhuizen | Director, Banana Pancakes and the Children of Sticky Rice

young woman overcome with emotion

“Selvi crashed down the imposing gender boundaries and limits to become Karnataka’s first female taxi driver, and found a truer version of herself and her future in the process.” – Elisa Paloschi | Director, Driving with Selvi


“In The Funeral Singer, Mr. Bay accepts the possible extinction of his music legacy [rather] than pass it to a daughter. His family story and melodies reflect the certain boundaries of men and women in Vietnam society…” – Thanh Hoang | Director, The Funeral Singer

Three men sitting on bunks listening to a fourth man play a flute.

“[The Invisibles]… turned out to be a film negotiating the limitations of language and understanding.  While the protagonists were confronted with these boundaries in an existential way, the filmmakers have been confronted artistically." – Benjamin Kahlmeyer | Director, The Invisibles


“… J’ouvert breaks down the boundaries of time and place for its Caribbean participants, connecting them to memories and emotions that are an integral part of their culture and history…” – Philip Bell | Director, J’ouvert


“Living in a disputed region where identity, politics, the law, and daily life are so deeply contested forced me to embrace grey areas, paradoxes and contradictions. I believe Kasheer provides a powerful understanding of the complexities involved in the Kashmir conflict…” – Elayne McCabe | Director, Kasheer: Art, Culture and the Struggle for Azadi

2 people standing on a cliff, lamenting the deforestation of their homeland

“…I wanted to give a voice to these people who struggle against a process of colonization that pushes or destroys their geographic, cultural and personal boundaries…” – Anne-Laure Porée and Guillaume Suon | Directors, The Last Refuge


“…[Matria] questions the boundaries of artistic usage of personal information in order to open up what may be considered to be private information… [asking] is it possible to be politically incorrect but ethically correct at the same time?” – Joaquin Burgos | Director, Matria