About this project
ABOUT THE FILM
The Arctic, for centuries a frozen and inaccessible landscape, today is anything but. 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, the tiny island of Kivalina, Alaska lies dead center in the middle of the Arctic's serious environmental, cultural, and industrial crossroad. There are industries looking to exploit, transportation interests looking to travel through, scientists looking to understand, environmentalists looking to save - and then there are the native people looking only to survive and live there as their ancestors have for centuries. These voices receive the least attention of all. These are the voices of Kivalina People, a feature documentary film that explores the lives of the Inupiat Eskimo people of Kivalina, whose island is disappearing into the warming of the modern Arctic.
There is no time more important than now to document the Arctic and the complexities of this vast paradoxical landscape, fraught with both tragedy and triumph, poverty and riches, pristine nature and shameful pollution all existing side by side. As filmmakers we have set out to explore and observe these tensions in this frozen melting landscape, and to do so through the story of one island and its people. The making of Kivalina People has spanned the course of five years, during which time we have received an extraordinary welcome into the community of Kivalina and worked to document the lives of the village's elders, hunters, government leaders, preachers, unemployed, and teenagers, all whom seek solace and answers in an uncertain landscape.
Kivalina People will take an audience on a personal journey into their living rooms, houses of worship, bingo hall, high school, general store, government offices, and the vast Arctic wilderness where they subsist off the land and sea. Kivalina People's intimate portrait of Arctic life explores what it's like for those still in contact with their ancient roots to attempt to navigate between the desires and needs of one's own tradition and contemporary survival dictated by a rapidly modernizing Arctic. Kivalina People, weaves intimate observational storytelling and cinematic imagery into a tapestry that captures the plight of one tiny island that has the power to speak for an entire Arctic at a moment of great change.
WHERE WILL YOUR MONEY GO?
All of the funds raised on Kickstarter will go directly into the post-production of this film, which includes paying our editor and paying for our editing space and supplies. Due the work of my incredible team, who helped shoot the film though donations of their time and talents we were able to shoot the film for very little. Alas, as many know, post production is something different. Currently we have an editor working full time on Kivalina People, but without raising $25,000 by our deadline on Kickstarter she will not be able to continue working. Please help us keep Kivalina People going! If we go over our goal, all money raised will stay in post production, of end fundraising goal is to raise $60,000 to deliver the film, we hope to raise $25,000 or more on Kickstarter and the rest though grants, foundations, and tax deductible donations.
WHO ELSE IS SUPPORTING THIS PROJECT?
We are so excited to share with everyone that Vision Maker Media (formerly Native American Public Television), who is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, chose Kivalina People to be a recipient of its prestigious Vision Maker Media Public Media Content Fund! This means that the Kivalina People will not only play at festivals and theaters, but also on public television for thousands of viewers across the country! In addition to Vision Maker Media, Kivalina People has also been supported by The Tribeca Film Institute's Tribeca All Access Program, IFP Spotlight on Documentaries, NYU's Richard Vague & Chris Columbus Award, and The Puffin Foundation.
DONATE ! SPEAD THE WORD !
We cant do it with out you! After five years of hard work we are ready to finish Kivalina People! All donations large and small will make a huge difference to us. If you want to go further, please forward our campaign to friends, family, and colleagues. We are looking for an angel donor or donors! You never know, you may know that angel donor. Introduce us to them! Who knows it might be you! We have only until the last day of our Kickstarter campaign to reach our goal. If we don't make $25,000 by then, we loose all of the money. Yup, after five years we are going all in baby! We have great faith the support is out there. Can't wait to meet you angel donors!
It is time to fight for the Arctic! We do not want our grandchildren to grow up in a world where the Arctic, crucial to the health and climate regulation of the entire planet and a last wilderness, is destroyed by the negligence of those that do no respect its value – yes, I mean oil companies. If you help us finish Kivalina People you will be giving a voice to the Arctic and its people, as our film has the power to reach thousands across the country. Kivalina People will play on public television. It will tour at festivals, schools, universities, community centers, museums, and beyond. While our film is not directly about oil drilling, it inspires a deep appreciation of the Arctic, and has the power to inspire, move, and activate viewers. Shell has not proven their ability to work safely in the Arctic. For Kivalina, everything is on the line. One oil spill could destroy the entire environment that feeds them physically, culturally, and spiritually. Kivalina People has the power to bring native voices to the forefront, voices that are desperately underrepresented in Big Decisions. Decisions that will determine the future of the Arctic. The sooner we finish this film, the sooner Kivalina can be heard.
This film would not be possible without the talents listed below, all of whom have worked tirelessly both in the Arctic and on the ground in New York on Kivalina People for over five years. Every frame in this movie has been crafted, lived, and breathed in Kivalina, alongside its open hearted people. For our team the chance to share what we've observed and recorded in Kivalina has been worth the enormity of this project and the journey to see it through.
Storytellers: The People of Kivalina
Director/Producer: Gina Abatemarco
Cinematographer: Zoe White
Producer: Anne Takahashi
Editor: Melanie Vi Levy
Consulting Producer: Anna Wendt, Anna Wendt Filmproduktion Berlin
Associate Producers: Jordana Maurer & Sarah Romney
Assistant Editor: Elif Alp
Sound Mixers: Emily Colon & Gina Abatemarco
Additional Editing: Josiah Signor, Trina Rodriguez, David Rivello
Additional Cinematography: Jay Keitel
Production Intern: Prisca Edwards
Kickstarter Cinematography: Arianna LaPenne
THE STORY BEHIND THE FILM
Funny isn't it how sometimes things find you: The first time I ever heard about Kivalina was on November 25, 2007 when over breakfast I causally opened the Los Angeles Times on a lazy Thanksgiving weekend. There next to my pancakes was an article that ultimately changed my life and my destiny. I had no plans to visit Alaska before this, nor make a documentary, but by March of 2008 I was on a plane heading to Kivalina to meet the village. This March 2013 will be the fifth anniversary of my first trip to Kivalina, which makes releasing our Kickstarter campaign now, seem even more meaningful and exciting. Making Kivalina People has been an incredible journey thanks to the extraordinarily generous people of Kivalina, who year after year have welcomed Zoe and I into their homes like members of a large extended family. We hope our film can bring attention to the voices of the wonderful friends we have made during the making of this film and look forward to knowing for a lifetime.
OPTIONAL FURTHER READING: WHAT IS HAPPENING TO KIVALINA?
As the Arctic warms, the tiny island of Kivalina grows dangerously smaller and smaller each year. Kivalina's fragile foundations of sand and permafrost cannot sustain the new Arctic climate, and as a result are crumbling at an alarming rate. Worse, with no more fall sea ice to protect them, the island is left wide open to worsening Arctic storms, that everyone fears will one day flood the village for good. With rescue hours away due to the island's remote location, the village is anxious to relocate.
According to the people of Kivalina, they cannot remember a time when they have not been asking the Alaskan and Federal governments to support their relocation. However, Kivalina's requests to be relocated and concern for their long term safety, have been met instead with the building of sea walls. The first one was made of sandbags, when that one was destroyed, a new one was built against the communities wishes. This time it was made of solid rock, cementing the community on the island for another ten years. Often when government agencies come to Kivalina to examine their dilapidated coastline, they ask the people of Kivalina why they didn't choose to settle on the mainland? The answer is simple, because the people of Kivalina didn’t choose this island at all. At the turn of the last century the nomadic lifestyle of their forefathers came to a sudden halt when they were forcibly settled on the island by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who wanted native tribes to settle, put their children in school, or go to jail.
A century later the descendents of the first settled people on the island, now American citizens, are facing the grave consequences of a decision made on their behalf. They argue that their people, who knew the island as a temporary summer hunting camp, would not have settled there, but they were never consulted. For the people of Kivalina, living on the island for another ten years means not only living in the path of catastrophic storms, but also living without running water, and with no room to build for a growing community. The people of Kivalina were told they could not receive running water on their current location and yet they cannot succeed in getting off the island, leaving them without sanitary resources, in turn effecting both their health and their dignity.
Today, in addition to concerns for daily welfare, the people of Kivalina must also fear the potential destruction of their subsistence lifestyle. As a result of President Obama's decision to lift the hold on Arctic oil leases put into effect after the tragic Deep Water Horizon spill, the very waters that Kivalina subsists from are directly in the path of big oil. Because the health of the people of Kivalina is inextricably intertwined with the health of the Arctic environment, one oil spill could have tragic effects on their lives, livelihood, and culture. Many fear that the adverse Arctic conditions will make a clean up next to impossible before ice formation, potentially trapping the oil under the ice for up to nine months. Before moving forward with their summer 2012 drilling program, Shell did not sufficiently address the concerns of native villages, environmentalists, nor scientists that they did not have the ability to clean up a spill, they just moved ahead anyway. Until Shell and others prove otherwise, all evidence suggests that due to lack of new technology, harsh weather, fall ice formation, the unknown effects of dispersants on animals and people, and the inability to deploy clean up vessels into the Arctic environment, that it is too risky to drill in the Arctic. Sadly, as the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas are under federal control, Kivalina and other native communities have no power to object to the development of their own backyard, nor will they profit from drilling unless operations come to land.
Risks and challenges
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