National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival Bites the Dust

The annual fall event, a favorite in Washington since 2004, will not return, nor offer any more grants to filmmakers.

By: Sophie Gilbert

It’s always sad when a festival calls it quits, but in the case of National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival, the cancellation of the annual event is a real loss for minority and indigenous filmmakers.

All Roads, which has been screening films at National Geographic locations across the country since 2004, also provided seed grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 annually to filmmakers who came from or documented underrepresented cultures. Finished works were subsequently presented as a part of the September festival and occasionally screened on the National Geographic channel.

“Unfortunately, [All Roads] did not generate the audience needed to sustain it as a separate strand of programming,” says National Geographic spokesperson Meaghan Calnan, who added that the organization will integrate films focusing on indigenous cultures into National Geographic Live, its public events series.

The first All Roads Film Festival debuted in 2004 in Los Angeles and Washington, presenting more than 36 films culled from 500 entries. Spike Lee, a member of the project’s advisory council, praised the festival’s mission to give underrepresented cultures and filmmakers a platform. “The All Roads Film Project will help bring to light a whole new group of talented individuals with extraordinary stories to tell,” Lee said. One of the first films screened was Arna’s Children by Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli/Palestinian actor and filmmaker who was assassinated in 2011.

In 2009, All Roads participant Thornton Warwick’s film Samson and Delilah was one of nine movies shortlisted for a Foreign Language Film Oscar that year and ended up winning the Caméra d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.

The former All Roads homepage now states that both the “All Roads Film Project and its Seed Film Grant program has ceased operation and will not resume.” National Geographic continues to offer other grants to conservationists and explorers, but its contributions to filmmaking will be sadly missed.