Documentarians Laura Poitras (pictured, left) and Natalia Almada (right) are among the 23 recipients of this year’s MacArthur ‘genius grants,’ each receiving US$500,000 to spend furthering their work, no strings attached.
Nominees for the annual prize are not notified that they have been nominated – the first time they find out is a phone call informing them that they have won the prize, which is paid out over a five-year period.
The MacArthur Foundation does not monitor how the money is spent. Other recipients for 2012 include David Finkel, author and national enterprise editor for The Washington Post; mandolin player and composer Chris Thile; Pulitzer-winning author Junot Diaz; flutist Claire Chase; and bow maker Benoit Rolland.
On the doc side, 37-year-old Almada (El Velador) is the founder of Altamura Films, and is based in Mexico City. According to the MacArthur foundation, “Almada’s documentaries present fresh takes on Mexican history, politics, and culture and serve as both works of art and tools for social change.”
Meanwhile, 48-year-old Poitras is based in New York, and best known for her docs The Oath and My Country, My Country, both of which deal with the war on terror.
She made headlines earlier this year when an array of big-name filmmakers and organizations threw their support behind her, following the publication of a report which said she is being frequently detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security while traveling abroad.