Documentary Filmmakers Win MacArthur Genius Awards (Video)

Filmmakers among 23 winners from the arts, medicine, and other fields

Two documentary filmmakers are among the 23 recipients of the MacArthur Foundation's "genius grant" fellowships.

Laura Poitras and Nalatlia Almada (pictured) join previously announced honorees from the worlds of arts and media. They include authors Junot Diaz and Dinaw Mengestu, whose publisher announced their fellowships Monday, and Washington Post reporter David Finkel, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series on U.S.-backed democracy efforts in Yemen.

Also read: Junot Diaz Named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow

Grant winners receive a $500,000 stipend to spend on their work in any way they choose. The recipients come from fields as diverse as photography, history, and neurobiology.

Poitras, a 48-year-old Oscar nomineee, is the New York City-based founder of Praxis Films. Her films include "My Country, My Country," and "The Oath," the first two films in a planned trilogy about the U.S. and its response to terrrorism.

Almada, 37, is a Mexico City-based filmmaker behind Altamura Films. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, she eschews conventional techniques and instead "incorporates powerful visual images and the observations of ordinary people she encounters with her camera into an intimate, multilayered form of storytelling," according to the foundation.

Musical recipients included Claire Chase, the 34-year-old artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble in Brooklyn, N.Y., which aims to advance contemporary classical music. She was joined by Boston-based Benoît Rolland, 48, honored for his work making bows, and New York-based Chris Tile, 31, a mandolinist and composer.

The foundation also recognized two photographers. An-My Lê, a 52-year-old Bard College professor, uses photography to explore fact and fiction surrounding war. Uta Barth, 54, was recognized for her conceptual work. She shoots "mundane or incidental objects in nondescript surroundings in order to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception," according to the foundation.

Watch Poitras and Almada discuss their work: