MacArthur Fellows Program

Natalia Almada

Documentary Filmmaker | Class of 2012

Capturing complex and nuanced views of Mexican history, politics, and culture in insightful and poetic works that affirm the potency of documentary film as both an art form and a tool for social change.

Documentary Filmmaker
Altamura Films
Mexico City, Mexico
37 at time of award
Area of Focus
Moving Image
Published October 2, 2012

About Natalia's Work

Natalia Almada is a filmmaker revealing rich new perspectives on Mexican history, politics, and culture in insightful and poetic films that push the boundaries of how the documentary form addresses social issues. A dual citizen of Mexico and the United States who has lived in both countries since childhood, Almada does not use conventional structures or techniques, such as interviews with specialists or a linear timeline. Instead, she incorporates powerful visual images and the observations of ordinary people she encounters with her camera into an intimate, multilayered form of storytelling. In El General (2009), Almada weaves together archival material; audio tapes of her grandmother’s recollections of Almada’s great-grandfather, Mexico’s president Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–28); and compelling footage of Mexico City during the contested presidential election of 2006. The result is a lyrical, quietly mesmerizing meditation on the legacy of Mexico’s political history, the relationship between personal and collective memory, and how memory informs one’s view of self, family, and country. Almada creates a striking and moving portrayal of the violence of drug trafficking and its effects on Mexican society in El Velador (2011). Although there are no scenes of violence in this haunting and contemplative film, it conveys the overwhelming crisis of the drug war through snippets of radio and television broadcasts, the sounds of construction in an ever-expanding cemetery, and the quiet imagery of families visiting the graves of loved ones. In films that pose more questions than they answer, Almada is capturing complex and nuanced views of the issues that define Mexican-American relations while reaffirming the potency of documentary both as an art form and a powerful medium for highlighting the often unseen implications of social conflict.


Natalia Almada received a B.F.A. (1995) from the College of Santa Fe and an M.F.A. (2001) from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her additional films include All Water Has a Perfect Memory (2001) and Al Otro Lado (2005), and her work has appeared at numerous national and international venues, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Sundance Film Festival, the Guggenheim Museum, the Munich International Film Festival, and the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.

Select News Coverage of Natalia Almada
May 6, 2018
"Interview: Natalia Almada Moves Into Fiction for Her New Film"
Hollywood SOAPBOX
Natalia Almada, 2012 MacArthur Fellow
January 26, 2015
"‘MacArturos’ Gather at CSUMB"
Monterey Herald
Joan Abrahamson , 1985 MacArthur Fellow
Ruth Behar , 1988 MacArthur Fellow
Baldemar Velasquez , 1989 MacArthur Fellow
Maria Varela , 1990 MacArthur Fellow
Amalia Mesa-Bains , 1992 MacArthur Fellow
Hugo Morales , 1994 MacArthur Fellow
Eva Harris , 1997 MacArthur Fellow
Camilo José Vergara , 2002 MacArthur Fellow
Rueben Martínez, 2004 MacArthur Fellow
Carlos D. Bustamante, 2010 MacArthur Fellow
Natalia Almada, 2012 MacArthur Fellow
October 5, 2012
"Two 'Genius Grants' For Women Experimenting With Documentary Film"
From NPR
2012 MacArthur Fellows: Natalia Almada and Laura Poitras
October 3, 2012
"Natalia Almada Named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow: The First Latina Filmmaker to Win the Prestigious Grant"
From The Sacramento Bee
Natalia Almada, MacArthur Fellow, 2012

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