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The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz

Year: 2020, 57 mins
Code: SPE-Ren

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The Emmy award-winning cross-cultural story of how an intrepid American treasure hunter and a brilliant self-taught Mexican artist transformed a dying desert village into a home for world-class ceramics.

When anthropologist Spencer MacCallum walked into a second-hand store in Deming, New Mexico, in 1976 and bought three pieces of pottery, he had no idea that he was about to embark on a journey that would lead to the revival of an ancient art form. Finding his way to Mata Ortiz, México, MacCallum partnered with self-taught artist Juan Quezada and slowly they created an industry that today is known world-wide not only for its interpretations of a centuries-old style of ceramics, but for stunning post-modern works as well. 

The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz tells the improbable story of how Quezada (without a kiln or a potter’s wheel and using only found materials) and MacCallum both experienced creative and personal breakthroughs which led to dazzling, innovating works by Quezada and a passing of the torch to younger, award-winning artists such as Diego Valles


Armed with degrees in film and economics from the University of Michigan, EMMY-winning filmmaker Petersen began his career on the feature film Zebrahead. Along with working in John Hughes’ office, his résumé includes work on “Antiques Roadshow,” “Rescue 911,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” Fox News, BBC, VH1, the Food Network, MGM Home Entertainment and several feature films and commercials.

Petersen produced and directed the award-winning, feature-length documentary Out Of The Loop, which explored Chicago’s underground music scene and featured such Windy City notables as Veruca Salt, the Jesus Lizard, and Steve Albini. This movie enjoyed a 15-city tour of colleges and universities and played at several festivals around the United States and Europe. Out Of The Loop was broadcast on PBS.

He delved deep into the cutthroat world of tournament Scrabble® with his award-winning 2003 documentary, Scrabylon, which he produced, directed and edited. Media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, TimeOut New York and the syndicated entertainment news program “Extra!” have all featured stories on Scrabylon. After numerous festivals and screenings around the United States, this acclaimed doc was featured on PBS and is now available on DVD.

The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz, the story of how an American treasure hunter and a brilliant, self-taught Mexican artist transformed a dying desert village into a home for world-class art, won numerous awards at film festivals and screened at several museums and universities around the country. It was broadcast on PBS and won an Emmy for Best Cultural Documentary.

His documentaries have been presented at such film festivals as: San Diego Film Festival, Calgary Int’l Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Dallas Video Festival, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, Sonoma Valley Film Festival, Sedona Int’l Film Festival, Durango Film Festival, Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, Cine Las Americas Film Festival and DocUtah: Southern Utah Int’l Film Festival, amongst others.


Emmy-winner: Best Cultural Documentary

Scott Petersen’s documentary winningly tells the tale of MacCallum’s unlikely odyssey as an arts promoter, and the film also provides a fascinating portrait of Quezada’s equally unlikely rise to prominence. The footage capturing the creation of Quezada’s painstakingly precise designs is wonderful, and MacCallum and Quezada’s accounts are compelling. The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz offers a fascinating look at contemporary Mexican art and culture.”
Video Librarian

From a dusty desert village in northern Chihuahua comes a story that you just can't make up. Director Scott Petersen's powerful storytelling in The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz makes this cross-cultural documentary a hidden gem that goes beyond the subject of Mexican pottery.” 
Nancy Flores, Austin American-Statesman

“A fascinating film that tells the tale of how two very different individuals came together and started an artistic movement that saved an entire community. Recommended.
EMRO (Educational Media Reviews Online)

“Scott Petersen’s The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz captures the essence of the Mata Ortiz ceramic art phenomenon by telling the story from its origins to the present with thoughtful commentary and beautiful photography.”
Walter Parks, Author: “The Miracle of Mata Ortiz”

Official Selection:


Sedona Film Festival (winner: Best Arts Film)
DocUtah Documentary Film Festival (winner: Best Editing)
Cine Las Americas Film Festival
Durango Film Festival
Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival

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