Anthropology on film

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With the theme ‘Past forward’, the Margaret Mead Film Festival runs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, from 23-26 October 2014. The festival, which has been running since 1977, is a premiere showcase for international documentaries. This year’s theme explores how traditions help cultures thrive and survive.

Margaret Mead

Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) in 1948. Image credit: Acc. 90-105 – Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The festival was created in 1976 to celebrate Margaret Mead‘s 75th birthday and her 50th year working in the Anthropology Department at the American Museum of Natural History. It was conceived as a one-off event to celebrate Mead’s early recognition of film as an important tool for anthropological fieldwork, and also her great passion for public engagement. The choice of a popular media such as film was also a way of engaging the general public and inviting them to think and discuss a wide range of issues.

During that first film festival in 1977, the French filmmaker Jean Rouch filmed Margaret Mead: a portrait by a friend, an interesting and humorous glimpse of Mead in the later years. Rouch, who first started hand-held filming after accidentally knocking his tripod in a river in Niger, was noted for his Cinéma vérité, which influenced New Wave directors like Truffaut and Godard. Members of the Wellcome Library can watch the film in the online resource Ethnographic Video Online (non-members can watch a preview).

Author: Victoria Sinclair is E-resources Librarian at the Wellcome Library.

Vicky Sinclair

Victoria Sinclair is E-resources Librarian at the Wellcome Library.

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One Response to Anthropology on film
  • Ania


    Margaret Mead is amazing in Jean Rouch’s cinematic portrait: asked about the future in 1977 (a year before she died), she casually shares her thoughts on… practical aspects of design of space colonies.

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