MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2012

Natalia Almada

Documentary Filmmaker


Altamura Films

Mexico City, Mexico

Age: 37 at time of award

Published October 2, 2012

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.


High-resolution photos for download. Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on a link below to save the file to your computer.

What's New

"‘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 ...

Read More
"Two 'Genius Grants' For Women Experimenting With Documentary Film" thumbnail

"Two 'Genius Grants' For Women Experimenting With Documentary Film"

From NPR
2012 MacArthur Fellows: Natalia Almada and Laura Poitras
Read More
"Natalia Almada Named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow: The First Latina Filmmaker to Win the Prestigious Grant" thumbnail

"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
Read More
23 MacArthur Fellows Announced thumbnail

23 MacArthur Fellows Announced

MacArthur named 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2012. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a marine ecologist, a journalist, a photographer, an optical physicist and astronomer, a stringed-instrument bow ... Read More