Filmmaker Natalia Almada is one the 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation's 'genious grants' as it was revealed this afternoon, few hours ahead of the scheduled official announcement. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards $500,000 (paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years) to between 20 and 40 U.S. citizens a year who display "exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work."
Unlike most other grants, there is no way to apply for the MacArthur, often referred to as the 'genius grant.' Past recipients include writers, scientists, artists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and fishermen, among others.
Almada’s most recent film El Velador: The Night Watchman premiered at New Directors/New Films Festival and the Cannes' Directors' Fortnight last year, the film is currently being broadcast on PBS as part of the 25th anniversary season of the P.O.V. Series. Almada was the recipient of the 2009 Sundance Documentary Directing Award for her film about her great-grandfather, Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles, El General. Almada’s previous directing credits include All Water Has a Perfect Memory (2001), an experimental short film that received international recognition, and Al Otro Lado, her award-winning debut feature documentary about immigration, drug trafficking and corrido music.
Her films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), dOCUMENTA(13) and the Whitney Biennial. Almada has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, a USA Fellow and a TEDx speaker, and was the recipient of the 2011 Alpert Award in Film/Video. She lives in Mexico City.
Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz also received one of this year's grants.