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Almada, Director/Producer of Three Award-winning POV Feature Documentaries, Is Among 23 Fellows Announced by MacArthur Foundation
New York, NY, Oct. 2, 2012 – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named its new MacArthur Fellows for 2012, and filmmaker Natalia Almada, whose three feature-length documentaries have premiered on PBS’ POV series, was thrilled to learn that she is among the 23 individuals–and that she is the first Latina filmmaker since the MacArthur Fellows’ inaugural class in 1981–to earn the coveted honor, sometimes called the “genius grant.” The fellowship is a $500,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.
The MacArthur Fellowship is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowships to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the directions of their careers. More information about the program is available at www.macfound.org/fellows.
Since 2001, when Almada created her first film, the experimental short All Water Has a Perfect Memory, she has made her mark by telling personal stories about her family, her native country and the ways in which the cultures and politics of Mexico and the United States affect people on both sides of the border. POV premiered her award-winning debut feature documentary, Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side), a look at immigration, drug trafficking and corrido music, in 2006. Her next feature, El General, about her family’s memories of her great grandfather, Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles, aired on POV in 2010. Her latest film, El Velador (The Night Watchman), a quiet look at the violence of Mexico’s drug lords as seen through the eyes of a cemetery guard, premiered as part of POV’s 25th anniversary season on Sept. 27, 2012; it continues to air on PBS stations nationwide and is streaming on POV’s website, www.pbs.org/pov.
“I first met Natalia Almada in a shuttle van traveling to the Salt Lake City airport in 2002, going home from the Sundance Film Festival,” said Cynthia López, POV’s co-executive producer. “Later we met at the POV offices, where she and I discussed her short film All Water Has a Perfect Memory, which she told me was inspired by a Toni Morrison essay. I was taken by the way this short, beautiful film encompassed so much: the tragedy of her family losing a child, growing up between American and Mexican cultures and the healing power of memory. Similar themes of remembrance, movement and the ties that bind Mexico and the United States have woven through her feature documentaries, and we are proud to provide a national showcase for Almada’s innovative work, as well as a springboard for discussion about the issues the films raise.”
“The MacArthur Foundation has made critical investments in documentary filmmakers who have changed the way we see the world. We are pleased that Almada will be joining this distinguished group of artistic visionaries and excited to see what this support brings,” said Simon Kilmurry, POV’s executive producer.
About Natalia Almada:
Natalia Almada was born in Mexico City, to a Mexican father and an American mother, and grew up in Chicago. She has a master of fine arts degree in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives in Mexico City.
Almada’s films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New Directors/New Films, the Cannes Film Festival, dOCUMENTA (13) and the Whitney Biennial. She 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 and the 2009 Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award from the International Documentary Association. She won the Best Short Documentary Award at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival for All Water Has a Perfect Memory; the Cultural Voice Award at the 2005 New York International Latino Film Festival for Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side); the U.S. Documentary Directing Award for El General at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival; and Best Cinematography Award, International Feature at the 2011 Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) for El Velador (The Night Watchman). For a complete list of films, screenings and awards, visit www.altamurafilms.com.
About Natalia Almada’s films:
All Water Has A Perfect Memory, 2001
All Water has a Perfect Memory is a poignant experimental documentary that explores the effects of tragedy and remembrance on a bicultural family. This moving piece lyrically meditates on the cultural and gender differences between the filmmaker’s North American mother and her Mexican father as they evoke the loss of their child. Official Selection, 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Gold Plaque Award, Chicago International Film Festival.
Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side), 2005. Premiered on POV on Aug. 1, 2006
The proud Mexican tradition of corrido music provides both heartbeat and backbone to this rich examination of songs, drugs and dreams along the U.S.-Mexico border. Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side) follows Magdiel, an aspiring composer from the drug capital of Mexico, as he faces two difficult choices: whether to traffic drugs and whether to cross the border illegally into the United States to better his life. From Sinaloa, Mexico to the streets of South Central and East Los Angeles, the film explores the world of drug smuggling, illegal immigration and the corrido music that chronicles it all. Official Selection, 2005 Tribeca Film Festival.
El General, 2009. Premiered on POV July 20, 2010
Past and present collide as Almada brings to life audio recordings she inherited from her grandmother, daughter of Plutarco Elías Calles, a revolutionary general who was Mexico’s president from 1924 to 1928. In his time, Calles was called El Jefe Maximo (the Foremost Chief). Today he is remembered as El Quema-Curas (the Priest Burner) and as a dictator who ruled through puppet presidents until his exile in 1936. El General moves between a daughter’s memories as she grapples with history’s portrayal of her father and the impact of his legacy on Mexico today. A co-production of ITVS in association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). A co-presentation with LPB.
El Velador (The Night Watchman), 2011. Premiered on POV Sept. 27, 2011
From dusk to dawn, El Velador (The Night Watchman) accompanies Martin, a guard who watches over the extravagant mausoleums of some of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. In the labyrinth of the cemetery, this film about violence without violence reminds us that, amid the turmoil of a drug war that has claimed more than 50,000 lives, ordinary existence persists in Mexico and quietly defies the dead. Official Selection, 2011 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, New Directors/New Films and International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. A co-production of Altamura Films, LPB and American Documentary | POV, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A co-presentation with LPB. An Icarus Films release.
El Velador (The Night Watchman) is on a national museum tour; for upcoming dates, visit icarusfilms.com/playdates.html#vela. Almada has enlisted prominent Mexican and international writers to contribute essays and poems to accompany the DVD release of El Velador (The Night Watchman). To read excerpts, visit www.pbs.org/pov/elvelador/essay-excerpts.php.
Produced by American Documentary, Inc., the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 325 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide and has a Webby Award-winning online series, POV’s Borders. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues. Visit www.pbs.org/pov.
Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the desJardins/Blachman Fund and public television viewers. Funding for POV’s Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.
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