By DAN FOX
A chilling tale that subverts the classic siren myth into a film that will give any artist goose bumps, and a documentary that touches on cultural issues familiar to Skagwegians – these are two in a full lineup of movies showing at the upcoming Skagway Film Festival.
“Keep Talking,” a documentary showing on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m., focuses on the Alutiiq Native American cultural and linguistic preservation effort. When the film began shooting in 2013, only about 41 fluent Alutiiq speakers were left. The documentary encompasses the events of the first-ever language immersion camp on the island of Afognak in the Kodiak Archipelago.
“That was a really exciting adventure for everyone, because they were trying these new language learning techniques for the first time, we were on an island with no cell phone service, no running water, no electricity,” said director Karen Weinberg. “So it was an exciting challenge for the crew as well.”
Through the film’s story, the audience meets the people at the language camp, and witnesses the extent of the language loss.
“You realize that the future of the language lies in these few young women who are teaching the language at this camp,” Weinberg said. “One of the campers is Sadie Coyle, and she’s 13 when we meet her. And the film progresses with the movement and with Sadie as she navigates her teenage years.”
Coyle’s coming of age story sits at the heart of “Keep Talking,” and the audience gets to see how the Alutiiq language impacts her as she grows up, Weinberg said.
“For me the film is a window into the importance of connection to one’s people, one’s heritage and one’s culture,” Weinberg said. The documentary’s themes of connection, healing and culture are relevant to anyone watching, but additionally, Weinberg said there is overlap between the Kodiak Alutiiq and Tlingit nations portrayed in the film.
The Tlingit language is another Native Alaskan tongue that is growing scarce, with very few people left who can speak it fluently. Lance Twitchell, a Tlingit native and Skagwegian, held workshops at the Traditional Council over the summer discussing the state of the Tlingit tongue.
“Muse,” playing at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, tells the story of a young artist named Adam struggling with a lack of inspiration – until he meets “her.” A beautiful woman who seems to fill him with artistic creativity, even after he uncovers a terrible secret about her.
The film is based around a creature from Celtic folklore, who offers great inspiration to an artist in return for love and devotion – and sometimes a more terrible price.
“She can be a muse and an inspiration to him, but a terror to anyone that interferes,” said “Muse” director/writer John Burr.
Burr said he set the movie in present day Los Angeles, in the downtown arts district, which is comprised of lofts repurposed from industrial usage and taken over by the arts community – an area that served as a fitting location for the genre of film he wanted to make.
“I knew I wanted to make something that was scary, not straight horror, but something with an edge to it,” Burr said. “So when I came across this legend it really fit.”
“Muse” and “Keep Talking,” along with other films, will play at AB Hall during the Skagway Film Festival. The festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, begins on Friday, Feb. 16 [see schedule to the left] and spans the weekend with a variety of movie showings, from documentaries to animated shorts for children.
Donna Griffard, organizer of the Film Festival and president of the Arts Council, said in the current age of YouTube and streaming, a person can watch all kinds of things in the comfort of their home – alone.
“By coming out to the Skagway Arts Council’s Film Festival, viewers get a chance to see something not widely available and also interact with others in a group setting,” Griffard said. “Participants will laugh, be enchanted, maybe horrified and generally entertained together. It makes for good conversation during the break between films or after the showing.”
Coffee, tea and snacks will be available for purchase. The Arts Council is accepting donated goodies to sell during the event.
Anyone wanting to donate treats or to volunteer can leave a message at (907) 983-3222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.