The Margaret Mead Film Festival, presented by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, has announced the lineup for its 2019 edition, which includes some Latin American titles co-presented by Cinema Tropical. The festival, specializing in documentary features and short films was inspired by anthropologist Margaret Mead’s use of film and photography, and aims to increase the understanding of the complexity and diversity of peoples and cultures around the world.
The festival will host the New York premiere of the Mexican film The Guardian of Memory / El guardían de la memoria by Marcela Arteaga in which stunning, quiet landscapes from Mexico’s Juarez Valley are juxtaposed with horrifying, intimate tales of mass murder. In 2008, the Mexican government sent an army to the rugged border region, ostensibly to fight drug trafficking. As locals from Juarez and Chihuahua tearfully recount the stories of their murdered or disappeared children, parents, and siblings, a Texas-based lawyer argues asylum seekers from the area are victims of a genocide.
Raúl O. Paz Pastrana’s debut feature Border South will also have its New York premiere at the festival. Through a blend of visual anthropology and cinema verité, the film tells the story of the migrants along the 2,300-mile-long “train north” through Central America. Anthropologist Jason De León follows the trail to understand what happens to the migrants who attempt the journey. He collects decaying artifacts lost along the way, allowing him to piece together the difficult lives of his subjects, and offering glimpses of the violence of the culture of immigration along the southwestern U.S. border.
Suzan Beraza’s Massacre River, also screening in its New York premiere, follows Pikilina, a 23-year-old Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent, who scrambles to regain documentation for herself and her children after the government reverses birthright citizenship. She is one of more than 200,000 people who must now choose between a life where they no longer have access to official jobs or government services or fleeing to a country they barely know.
The Margaret Mead Film Festival will host the U.S. screening of Vincent Carelli and Wewito Piyãko’s Antonio y Piti. Thirty years ago, a rubber company enslaved a group of Asháninka people, manipulating them into tapping the trees in the lush borderland between Peru and Brazil. The company was expelled by a coalition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, led by one mixed race couple. Now the adult children of this marriage combat political corruption and ongoing environmental disaster.
Also in its U.S. premiere is Sam Zubrycki’s Miguelito — Canto a Borinquen, which goes searching for Miguelito, the 11-year-old Puerto Rican salsero who after he played at the Madison Square Garden in 1972 went disappearing with his whole family from New York City. Now, legendary producer Harvey Averne is anxious to rediscover both Miguelito and the sound of early 70s New York salsa scene.
Additionally, the Mead will also screen the short films Cuban Canvas by Kavery Kaul, and Refusal to Let Go / Duxh Benigulun by Teresa Martínez Chávez. The 2019 edition of the Margaret Mead Film Festival will take place October 17-20.