fire show at festival

We may be less sure than ever about what tomorrow will bring.

An avalanche of disorienting unknowns frames this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival—from American political upheaval to the effects of global climate change, the mounting refugee crisis, and the ever-increasing pace of technological transformation. 

In the face of uncertainty, we sometimes prefer to turn away, escape, and retreat to the familiar. But there is far more to gain by pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Come to the Mead to tune in, turn on, and pay attention.

It’s time to activate.

Activate your passion. Engage with stories that help us find genuine connections where we least expect them. Hear youth on a communal farm in Mexico debate the future of their land and their favorite pop icons (The Cloud Forest, p.16). Meet the remarkable women of an all-female regiment in Kurdistan fighting against aggression from the Islamic State (Gulîstan, Land of Roses, p.17). Meet passionate filmmakers and protagonists in person in post-screening conversations and at daily Mead Mixers.

Activate your awareness. Encounter voices that often go unheard—a filmmaker losing his vision (Lust for Sight, p.20) or a coffin-maker in Ghana (Paa Joe & the Lion, p. 21). Follow people who are driving change in their own communities, seeking solutions, and doing the work, such as a grassroots resistance to a corporate land grab in Papua New Guinea (The Opposition, p.20). These films embody Margaret Mead’s own call to “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Activate change. Enjoy new modes and new artists in an installation by the acclaimed First Nations artist Amanda Strong, a conversation with graphic novelists, and a showcase of immersive 360-degree films.

Activate fun. Make new friends at the opening-night party. Watch as Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews octogenarian astronaut Charlie Duke as part of the Special Presentation: Lunar Tribute. Celebrate the contenders at the Mead Awards ceremony. The weekend promises to be a good time for the Mead’s community of globally curious and open-hearted festivalgoers.

Be sure to take in all that the American Museum of Natural History has to offer during your stay at the Mead: visit ancient mummies, learn about your microbes, and pick up a calendar to learn more about other upcoming public programs.

Come see what the Mead will activate for you. 

Bella Desai
Director of Public Programs and Exhibition Education


Activate | In Their Own Words

2017 filmmakers reflect on Activate. See some of their responses below. Look for more throughout the individual film pages.

“There are powerful voices in quiet places. I hope that the film will make people reflect on how far they are willing to go to achieve their dreams, their rights, and more equality in their community.” 
—Maayan Arad, Chomo


“I hope to activate a sense of opening up possibilities, through irony, poetry, and encounters. Making the film activated my curiosity about the details of the art practice and methods of someone whose work attracts me.” 
—Luuk Bouwman, Dick Verdult – It Is True But Not Here


“For me as a photographer, this was a voyage of discovery, where moving forward meant shedding inhibitions, having faith in the project and my work, and relying on my senses and intuition to guide me through the unknown.” 
—Rob Lewis, Lunar Tribute


“The Opposition is a weapon of hope created in collaboration with the Paga Hill community towards their future goals after years of human rights abuses and forced evictions. The process of making The Opposition has inspired me to learn from the momentous resistance movements of Papua New Guinea, which are both strong and vulnerable at the same time.” 
—Hollie Fifer, The Opposition


“The process has activated philosophical questions about the digitization of the divine, the materiality of the sacred, the transformation of ancient art practices, and what digital religious art might mean for a growing Orthodox community in Appalachia." 
—Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Pixelating Holiness