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Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award

Mead Award Slide

The Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award recognizes documentary filmmakers who embody the spirit, energy, and innovation demonstrated by anthropologist Margaret Mead in her research, fieldwork, films, and writings.

The award is given to a filmmaker whose feature-length documentary displays artistic excellence and originality of storytelling technique while offering a new perspective on a culture or community remote from the majority of our audiences’ experience. Filmmakers with works making their U.S. premieres at the festival are eligible. On Sunday evening, the Mead Award winner will be announced in an award ceremony and will be shown in an encore presentation. 

2018 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Winner

Christy Garland, director, What Walaa Wants  

“What we felt that was really strong about the film was the way that it is showing the kind of growth and development of a young woman who’s a very complex person,” said juror Toby Lee. “That it shows all of her internal contradictions that are also very much connected to the contradictions of the kind of larger historical and political context in which she lives.”

“Also, we like the cinematography,” said juror Sarah Elder. “The intimate nature of it and the access that the director had to the family and to the police academy.”

2018 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Contenders  

Georgina Barreiro, director, Tara’s Footprint 

Maciek Bochniak, director, Ethiopiques–Revolt of the Soul 

Łukasz Borowski, director, Runners

Jean-Simon Chartier, director, Playing Hard

Helin Celik and Martin Klingenböck, directors, What the Wind Took Away

Christy Garland, director, What Walaa Wants  

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kartinen, director, Eastern Memories

Marcia Mansur and Marina Thomé, directors, The Sound of Bells

Tenzin Phuntsog and Joy Dietrich, director, Rituals of Resistance  

Anja Reiss, director, Truth Detectives 

Carmen Torres, director, Amanecer (Dawn)


2018 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Jury

Sarah Elder is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has filmed with Alaska Native communities since 1973. Her work focuses on collaborative media practices, Indigenous sovereignty and heritage, and the ethics of filming across cultural and social boundaries. 

Chris Hegedus is a director and editor whose work includes Academy Award-nominated The War Room and the Emmy-winning Elaine Stritch.

Toby Lee is an artist and anthropologist who works across film, video, drawing, and text. She is assistant professor of Cinema Studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Sam Pollard is an accomplished feature film and television video editor and documentary producer/director whose work includes August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand for the PBS series “American Masters.”

Heather Rae is an Academy Award-nominated producer whose work includes Frozen River, Netflix Originals Tallulah and Dude, I Believe in Unicorns, and The Dry Land. 


Previous winners of the Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award include:

2017 Recipient: Warwick Thornton, director, We Don’t Need a Map 

2017 Special Mention: Carol Salter, director, Almost Heaven 

2016 Recipient: Aleksandra Maciuszek, director, Casa Blanca

2016 Special Mention: Jessie Deeter, director, A Revolution in Four Seasons

2015 Recipients: Kim Beamish, director, The Tentmakers of Cairo and Iiris Härmä, director Leaving Africa: A Story About Friendship and Empowerment

2015 Special Mention: Aldona Watts, director, Land of Songs

2014 Recipients: José Cohen and Lorenzo Hagerman, directors, H2O MX

2014 Special Mention: Simona Ghizzoni and Emanuela Zuccalà, directors, Just to Let You Know That I’m Alive

2013 Recipients: Sarah Gavron and David Katznelson, directors, Village at the End of the World

2013 Special Mention: Lalita Krishna, director, Mallamall

2012 Recipient: Adam Isenberg, director, A Life Without Words (Una Vida Sin Palabras)

2012 Special Mention: Giovanni Giommi, director, Bad Weather and Miyarrka Media for Manapanmirr in the Christmas Spirit

2011 Recipient: Yuanchen Liu for To The Light

2010 Recipient: Marc and Nick Francis, directors, When China Met Africa


Past Jury Members Include:

2017: Alice Apley executive director of Documentary Educational Resources, Sally Berger film and media curator, lecturer, writer, and fellow at NYU Center for Media, Culture and History, Bonni Cohen director and producer whose work includes An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017), Lewis Erskine Emmy-winning New York-based editor, and Andrew Okpeaha MacLean an award-winning Iñupiaq filmmaker (On the Ice, 2011) who teaches in the Kanbar Institute of Film & TV, NYU. 

2016: Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founder and executive director of Cinema Tropical, Kirsten Johnson, director and cinematographer of Oscar-winning Citizenfour, Carolyn Rouse, a cultural anthropologist at Princeton who focuses on how evidence and authority are used to validate truth claims and calls for social justice, Basil Tsiokos, director of programming for DOC NYC, and Christine Walley, an anthropologist at MIT and Mead alum.

2015:Orlando Bagwell, documentary filmmaker and former Ford Foundation Director; Jessica Hagedorn, playwright, novelist, poet, and screenwriter; Meg McLagan, documentary filmmaker and cultural anthropologist; and Lacey Schwartz, documentary filmmaker and outreach strategist.

2014: Director of the Documentary Film Program at the Sundance Institute, Tabitha Jackson; filmmaker and author, Sadia Shepard; filmmaker and professor, Marco Williams; and author, anthropologist, and filmmaker, John L. Jackson, Jr.

2013: senior vice president of HBO Documentary Films, Lisa Heller, filmmaker and professor, Jamal Joseph, former program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Richard Peña; and author and filmmaker, Sadia Shepard

2012: founder and executive director of the New York African Film Festival, Mahen Bonetti; director, Patricia Cardoso; Executive Director and co-founder of Impact Partners, Dan Cogan; and filmmaker, activist and educator, Judith Helfand

2011: Led by jury chair and Academy Award-nominated director Darren Aronofsky. Other members include Film Forum’s Karen Cooper, documentary producer Liz Garbus, and filmmaker Stanley Nelson

2010: filmmaker, photographer, and anthropologist John Cohen; producer Wendy Ettinger; filmmaker and animator Emily Hubley; and director Thomas Allen Harris