Observing the Observers explores the travel film’s role in shaping how people and places have been represented in popular culture, from one of the genre’s heydays in the early 20th century to today. Pegi Vail looks back on the films by famous travel filmmaking duo and box office favorites Martin and Osa Johnson in comparison to current trends on travel internet series like the Vice Guide to Travel or the growing number of films made about the tourists themselves screened at this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival, such as Gringo Trails (Icarus Films) and Framing the Other (Directed by Ilja Kok and Willem Timmers, courtesy of Documentary Educational Resources), influenced by Dennis O’Rourke’s classic 1987 film Cannibal Tours, which asks — when tourists journey to the furthermost reaches of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, is it the indigenous tribespeople or the white visitors who are the oddity? Director Kimi Takesue will share an excerpt of her new film, Looking For Adventure, an observational documentary on group tourism in Peru and Jamie Meltzer’s short film La Caminata will be screened, which features a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction in Mexico: a simulated nighttime border crossing, complete with fake border patrol chasing coyotes. This event also features a discussion with Holly Morris around contemporary TV travel shows and films, including the mainstream PBS shows she hosts, Globe Trekker and Treks in a Wild World.
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Dec 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm
Observing the Observers
With Pegi Vail Monique Scott, Kimi Takesue, and Holly Morris.
Pegi Vail is an anthropologist, filmmaker, and curator at NYU’s Center for Media, Culture, and History. Her book, Right of Passage, based on her research among backpackers in Bolivia as a Fulbright scholar, is forthcoming (Duke University Press). Vail has additionally served as lecturer for Columbia Alumni Travel Study Tours, National Geographic, and is a judge for the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. She has taught at NYU and Columbia University on Film, Culture, and Tourism. As a curator,Vail collaborates with organizations such as the Museum of the American Indian, American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and The Moth, the storytelling collective she was a founding board member and curator for. Vail currently serves on the Moth’s General Council and Curatorial Committee. She recently had the world premiere at the Margaret Mead Film Festival of her film, Gringo Trails, which shows the unanticipated impact of tourism on cultures, economies, and the environment, tracing some stories over 30 years.
Holly Morris is a modern-day explorer, writer and storyteller whose work spans media and continents. She is the author of Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for a New Kind of Heroine (Random House), a New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” and writer/director and Executive Producer of the companion PBS documentary series, “Adventure Divas.” A former National Geographic Adventure columnist and widely anthologized essayist, Morris is also a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review among other national publications. She is the former Editorial Director of the book publishing company Seal Press. Morris presents the PBS television series “Globe Trekker,” and “Treks in a Wild World,” and also hosted “Outdoor Investigations.”?Morris has reported on the illegal caviar trade from Iran’s Caspian Sea, sex trafficking from the brothels of India, and the global diaspora of Black Panthers from Cuba, among other international stories. Her recent feature story “A Country of Women,” about a surprising group of survivors living in the shadow of Chernobyl, won the Meredith Editorial Excellence Award, was reprinted in London’s Daily Telegraph, and The Week, and was selected for the anthology The Best Travel Writing (2012). Currently, the story is being made into a documentary film. She’s based in Brooklyn, New York.
Monique Scott is on the Mead Film Festival Selection Committee. She is the Assistant Director of Cultural Education and a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Scott specializes in museum anthropology, the history of physical anthropology and representations of race within evolutionary exhibitions and other media. She is the author of Evolution in the Museum: Envisioning African Origins (Routledge 2007), a book considering constructions of Africa in origins exhibitions in Kenyan British and American natural history museums. As the Assistant Director for Cultural Education, Dr. Scott oversees and designs anthropological education for various programs around the museum, including developing unique anthropological events for the Margaret Mead Film Festival.
Kimi Takesue is an award-winning filmmaker and the recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Filmmaking. Her feature-length documentary WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME? (2010) shot in Uganda, was commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam where it had its world premiere. It was selected for MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) and the Los Angeles Film Festival (Doc. Competition) where it was a Critics’ Pick by LA Weekly. The film was selected for MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) and the Los Angeles Film Festival (Documentary Competition) where it was a Critics’ Pick by LA Weekly. WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME? was theatrically released by ICARUS FILMS where it was a Critics’ Pick by Time Out-New York and called “Extraordinary” (Village Voice), “Stellar” (Cineaste), “Beautifully meditative…an uplifting observational documentary that plays on seeing and being seen” (Variety), and “Fascinating…an unusual, visually rich visit to the nation” (The New York Times).