Demonstrating that anthropology is one of the liveliest and broadest of sciences seems to be the objective of the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. Nine of the diverse cultural documentaries from the American Museum of Natural History's fest, named for the much-admired anthropologist, are to be shown during September at Arizona Science Center, on a grant from Arizona Humanities Council.
No droning hypotheses about Neanderthal hunting-gathering, or excruciating analyses of the shifting design patterns in Etruscan pottery here. These films suggest that the study of basic culture is a field full of partisanship and controversy, and of relevance.
Better still, they're free. Tickets to the screenings, which are held in pairs, one at 6:30 p.m. and one at 8 p.m., for three consecutive Wednesdays in the center's Irene P. Flinn Theater, are gratis, available on first-come, first-served basis. These are the scheduled films:
Wednesday, September 8:
6:30 p.m.: Cracks in the Mask -- The film is an exploration of the conflict between ethnographic museums and the rights of indigenous peoples to reclaim their communities' artifacts.
8 p.m.: Skin's Sorrow -- The bereavement over the loss of pets which leads some people to have their animals preserved through taxidermy is the theme of this film.
Wednesday, September 15:
6:30 p.m.: From Sand to Celluloid -- The three shorts in this program, Milerum, Whose Story?, Night Patrol and The Dreaming, are unified by the theme of the "repatriation and the transmission of cultural heritage in Australia."
8 p.m.: Bread Day and The Bathhouse -- The first half of this double bill examines a community of impoverished pensioners at a settlement outside St. Petersburg, Russia. The second explores the lives of elderly patrons of a bathhouse in Lithuania.
Wednesday, September 22:
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6:30 p.m.: Pepino Mango Nance and Black Tears -- Music is the theme of this double bill. The former film traces the cultural influences on a young Chicano composer. The latter, in the vein of Buena Vista Social Club, is La Vieja Trova Santiaguera (The Old Troubadours), a quintet of aging Cuban musicians.
8 p.m.: The festival concludes with a repeat screening of Bread Day and The Bathhouse.
Various academic big shots will introduce the films and/or talk about them afterward. Go anyway.
The Irene P. Flinn Theater is located at Arizona Science Center, 600 East Washington. Call 602-716-2000 for more information.