Dallas International Film Festival 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. Following an anthropologist around for 5 years will either sound interesting to you or not. The hook here is that the filmmakers draw a parallel between acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead and her granddaughter Mary Catherine Bateson, and modern day anthropologist Susie Crate and her teenage daughter Katie.
It’s unclear how the three co-directors – Seth Kramer, Daniel A Miller, Jeremy Newberger– split the duties or shared contributions in telling this story over 5 years, but we follow Susie and Katie to Siberia, Kiribati (South Pacific), Peru, and Virginia. We witness how the melting permafrost is destroying wheat fields and slowly starving out communities. We watch as Susie goes glacier ice gathering in the Andes, and how the local community bonds over the haul.
One of the director’s half-jokingly referred to the film as the “Coming of Age Climate Change comedy” … saying that’s their pitch as they push for distribution. While that’s a catchphrase of which to be proud, I didn’t find much humor here. In fact, as Katie ages from 14 through 18 during filming, I found her to be a bit of a drag on the pacing of the film … not nearly as interesting as she seems to find herself. Clearly her mother is a dedicated and intelligent professional, but the mother/daughter theme came across a bit forced.
The film informs us that anthropology is the study of learned behavior which defines different cultures. Most of what they do is observe and record different cultures, and the changes that occur. There is also Susie’s observation, “we don’t change the world, we change ourselves”, which is quite a profound thought from someone in her line of work.