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Margaret Mead Traveling Film Festival Set for April 8-10 at UVI

For the fifth consecutive year, the Margaret Mead Traveling Film Festival will be available free to the Virgin Islands public on UVI's campuses on St. Croix and St. Thomas. The festival, which features six films, is slated for April 8, 9 and 10. The 2011 Traveling Festival features select titles from the 2010 Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, the longest-running, premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States.

Two films will be viewed each evening - see schedule below. Screenings begin at 6 p.m. and run until 10 p.m. On St. Thomas the festival will take place in Business Education Room 110 and on St. Croix it will be in Evans Center Room 401.

The traveling festival is featured at museums, universities and colleges throughout the United States and abroad, according to UVI Professor of Communication Dr. Alex Randall, who was instrumental in bringing the festival to the University.

"If you love to learn about other people in other places in the world, this is for you," Dr. Randall said. "UVI has arranged for all of the films in this year's series to be shown to the whole community on St. Thomas and St. Croix," he added. "All films in the program are free and open to the public."

Dr. Randall said the films to be shown represent some of the very finest independent cultural documentaries available in the United States. He said festival organizers at the American Museum of Natural History in New York screen dozens of the best innovative non-fiction films and select the top offerings for the traveling show.

Dr. Randall points out that the film "There Once Was an Island" is particularly relevant to the people living in the Virgin Islands. "It is all about people coping with the change in the ocean due to global warming. It is poignant for all of us who live on islands," he said. "This is really gripping stuff for all of us."

This year's films are: "Because We Were Born" from Brazil, "In the Garden of Sound" from Italy, "A Mountain Musical" from Austria, "Plug & Pray" from Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S., "Shooting with Mursi" from Ethiopia, and "There Once Was An Island" from Papua New Guinea. More information about the traveling festival and the films is available at this web link: http://www.amnh.org/programs/mead/traveling. The festival is jointly sponsored by the UVI College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the jointly sponsored by the Virgin Islands Montessori School and International Academy.

Viewing Schedule

  • Friday, April 8- "A Mountain Musical" & "In the Garden of Sound"
  • Saturday, April 9 - "There Once Was an Island" & "Shooting with Mursi"
  • Sunday, April 10 - "Plug and Pray" & "Because We Were Born"

About the Films

Because We Were Born (90 min.): At a truck stop in Brazil's arid northeastern state of Pernambuco, Nego and Cocada live by their wits, picking up odd jobs to earn one or two measly reais. Alternately despairing and hopeful, these young boys on the brink of manhood carry around their small dreams, spun from the imperfect examples of the grownups that surround them. French filmmaker Duret and Brazilian filmmaker Santana show us the world through the eyes of Nego and Cocado, as their neighbors make do with next to nothing and the transient truckers seem to have it all. Whether scavenging leftover food from restaurant plates, sleeping in a benevolent driver's cab, or doing chores at home after a long day's hustle, they turn to each other for comfort and company and wonder what no one of such a tender age should have to wonder: what will become of me?

In the Garden of Sound (85 min.): Tucked into a small Swiss hamlet, Wolfgang Fasser's studio is filled with cymbals, drums, and other noisemakers, including a therapeutic table built on a bed of musical strings. A former physical therapist who became blind at age 22 from the genetic disease retinitis pigmentosa, he now works with developmentally disabled children, using music and natural sounds to reach through each child's particular physical and mental barrier. Whether capturing birdsong in the early dawn, calming a restless patient, or attending to the townspeople's various complaints at the local market, Fasser moves through the world fluidly and purposefully, beyond his own sensory limitations while helping others to transcend theirs. In the end, his profound appreciation for the subtleties of sound draws attention to the paucity of perception for which most of us settle.

A Mountain Musical (52 min.): In Eva Eckert's stunningly beautiful and frequently hilarious film, the Austrian tradition of yodeling is carried on in the warbling of an increasingly aged population. The myths and toil of an industrial landscape told through the music of miners, coal burners, mountain farmers and factory workers give voice to a truly unique portrait of the Eisenwurzen region and its fascinating inhabitants.

Plug and Pray (90 min): It's an age-old dream to create intelligent machines that equal their human creators. Computer experts all around the world strive to fulfill the bold visions. Meanwhile, of all people one of the pioneers of the computer age, Joseph Weizeneaum, opposes the limitless faith in the redemptive powers of technology. What will it mean to be human in a world run by machines?

Shooting with Mursi (55 min.): Since he was a boy Olisarali has observed occasional visits from foreigners filming his tribe, the Mursi, with their lip plates, nakedness and body painting. Now he wants to be the one making the films, and his film gives a unique voice to a group that has never had a platform like this. He is fighting to save his family, his culture and his land. In his fight, he faces two enemies - the tribes which surround him and the forces which want to turn his land into a wild life park for rich Westerners. He carries a Kalashnikov in one hand and a video camera in the other. This film tells his story, in his words, with his footage of what is happening to his tribe and how they are fighting to preserve their way of life. He shows how the arrival of adventure tourists has encouraged his tribe to sit around drinking instead of tending their cattle and hunting. Olisarali, who speaks good English, goes to a town and has a chance meeting with Nobel Prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz which results in a discussion about globalization. Among the themes is one in which the elders summon the tribe together after members of a neighboring tribe have been murdered. Faced with the threat of arrest by the government they perform a ritual beating of all the young warriors. Finally Olisarali goes to a meeting in the heart of enemy territory to try and settle the differences which have resulted in killings.

There Once Was an Island (80 min.): The Takuu people live in a Polynesian paradise. Among the towering palms, crystal blue waters, and white-sand beaches of an atoll off the shores of Papua New Guinea, the people of Nukutoa carry on without electricity and free from notions of private ownership. But the rising South Pacific is eroding their shores, threatening their taro crops and shoreline huts, forcing them to accept federal subsidies to survive. When the government offers to relocate the islanders to the mainland before the sea water overtakes them, the Takuu request instead that environmental scientists investigate a way to save their home. Told from the perspective of three main characters, There Once Was an Island bears witness to the local effects of global climate change on a culture deeply rooted to its geography. Combining thoughtful interviews with spectacular outdoor cinematography, New Zealand documentarian Briar March creates a heartbreaking portrait of a people who must choose either to move away or die with their island.