This year's edition of the Margaret Mead Traveling Film and Video Festival, which stops at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Feb. 26-28, features several works that ask provocative questions.
Question Number One: Who owns the stories of indigenous cultures on display in Western ethnographic museums such as Penn's?
Two of the three films on the opening night's program of "Australian Indigenous Media," Francis Calvert's "Cracks in the Mask" and Robert Crompton's "Milerum: Whose Story?", focus on this question directly, and Museum Associate Director for Collections and Exhibitions Marilyn Norcini will also engage it in her introductory talk.
Question Number Two: How do societies handle taboos surrounding women?
That is the focus of Saturday afternoon's four film program. It includes the Canadian documentary "Under Wraps: a film about going with the flow," which explores menstruation in an unusually frank manner, and "Dear Dr. Spencer: Abortion in a Small Town," which captures the social and moral contradictions of the age of illegal abortions through the tale of Dr. Robert Douglas Spencer (M'16), who performed abortions openly in a small Pennsylvania town for more than four decades.
Question Number Three: Can you fight the powers that be?
Saturday's evening program features "Lumumba," which tells the story of the legendary Congolese prime minister, and "Spudwrench: Kahnawake Man," which introduces viewers to Randy Horne (photo), the Canadian Mohawk who took time off from working the "high steel" to stop developers from turning sacred land near the Canadian village of Oka into a golf course.
Question Number Four: Is there anything light this year?
Yes. See Sunday's "Border Crossings" program. The two films, "Pepino Mango Nance" and "Black Tears," both explore how people use music (broadly defined) to break down legal and cultural barriers.
Originally published on February 25, 1999