Hollywood Movies

INTERVIEW: Margaret Mead Film Festival’s mission is to build community

May 10, 20245 Mins Read

Photo: 23 Mile, a film that dissects the divisions in the United States, is a centerpiece at the 2024 Margaret Mead Film Festival. Photo courtesy of filmmaker / Provided by Millennial PR with permission.

During these divided times, the Margaret Mead Film Festival at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History stands out as a community program that grounds itself in the transformative power of learning, understanding, culture and community. The multimedia event, which kicked off last night, May 9, and continues through the weekend, features a host of events, both cinematic and conversational in nature.

This year’s festival features a number of important films, including five world premieres. Birders can rejoice in seeing the migratory pattern of the Cuvivi sandpiper in remote Andean lakes in the new documentary Ozogoche, directed by Joel Houlberg Silva. Cherokee activists are in a fight to preserve their language, and the community’s history and present-day journey are showcased in ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ / We Will Speak, directed by Schon Duncan and Michael McDermit. Mitch McCabe’s 23 Mile looks at the divisions in the United States following the 2020 presidential election.

There’s something for everyone at the Margaret Mead Film Festival.

At the center of the festival is Jacqueline Handy, director of public programs at the AMNH and Mead festival director. She recently took some time to answer Hollywood Soapbox’s questions about the 2024 edition of the film festival. Here’s what she had to say …

On the highlights she’s most excited for at this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival …

“There are so many to choose from. I think the biggest thing for me in this new iteration of Mead, we’re back from the pandemic, and we’re trying to create several different opportunities for folks to watch, engage and connect across the board. So, what is most exciting for me is thinking through the opportunities for folks to choose their own adventure. Mead this year is more than a cinematic event. It’s a celebration of stories and cultures and perspectives from around the world, and we’re inviting folks to come together just to share. We had our kickoff last night, which was a multimedia performance, which I think is unique for film festivals. That was really exciting to bend what it means to be a film festival, but we’ve got conversations coming. There are films coming that really challenge us to come together and interrogate and investigate our shared humanity. Those opportunities, listening in on audiences as they dissect and chew on the content, those are things I’m excited about.”

On the overall mission of the film festival …

“We want to center stories in this festival. Now more than ever, stories are essential. They’ve got a unique power to bring us together, but too often they’re used to keep us apart. Whether folks see themselves reflected through the stories or challenged by them or even in direct opposition to them, it’s what we do at that intersection that makes us stronger. Creating opportunities for folks to jump in across the board, I think, is exciting and what makes it a part of this festival.”

On welcoming international cultures and voices to the festival …

“We have such a strong platform in the museum, and we want to make sure that our audiences and the stages that we have are as diverse as New York City is. We’ve got folks coming in from all around the world. We’ve got Brazil, Mexico, Australia sharing our space and giving platform. I would say that across the board we work to make this festival for us, by us, which is not a term that’s unique to us. We wanted to make sure that filmmakers and creative teams have control over their own narrative, which I think goes a long way toward uniting us, so films like Rising Up at Night, Porcelain War, Sugarcane, they’re really great examples of that.”

On promoting education and learning …

“We try to center curiosity across the board at the museum and bringing curious folks together who are open and giving folks an opportunity, a launching point for conversation. I think that’s huge in terms of not necessarily solving the world’s problems, but bringing us together to think through solutions. So this festival is one way, in a time where folks are really divided, to bring folks together in conversation and in community. The museum is a huge space, a civic center, a space for community building, so this is one facet of many where we’re trying to make sure our doors are open and giving platform.”

On the importance of 23 Mile, a film about divisions in the United States …

“We want to be relevant to the time, so 23 Mile is huge in terms of what folks have lived through, elements of the pandemic, how we are processing our current moment and what is to come for the future. So 23 Mile is a great launching point for conversation.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

The 2024 Margaret Mead Film Festival continues through Sunday, May 12, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Click here for more information and tickets.

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