As first reported in The New York Times, documentary filmmakers Natalia Almada and Laura Poitras were among 23 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Grants for 2012—the so-called "Genius Grants," which have no application processes, arduous reporting requirements, or strings attached of any sort. The fellowships are $500,000, paid out over five years.
According to its website, the MacArthur Fellows Program, administered by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, honors "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. The Fellowship is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations."
Almada, who earned the 2009 IDA Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award among other honors, maintains residences in both Brooklyn and Mexico City, and her most recent works— Al Otro Lado, El General and El Velador—explore the dualities, nuances and grey areas between the two cultures, with a style that eschews documentary conventions for deeper, more lyrical and literary resonances beneath the surface of sociopolitical inquiry. For a video interview with Alamda on the MacArthur Fellows website, click here.
Poitras is currently working on the third installment of her trilogy about America in a post-9/11 world, the war on terror and its human consequences. The first film, My Country, My Country, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature, while The Oath earned an IDA Humanitas Award and an IDA Award nomination in 2010 for Best Documentary Feature. The third installment addresses, according to an interview with Poitras on the MacArthur Fellows website, "the NSA, WikiLeaks, whistle blowers and how the war on terror comes home."
Other documentary filmmakers who have earned MacArthur Fellowships over the years include Edet Belzberg, Charles Burnett, Jon Else, James Longley, Louis Massiah, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, Marcel Ophuls and Frederick Wiseman.