This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
What would a road bring to the Brooks Range? We question the meaning of progress in one of the most remote areas in the US.
What would a road bring to the Brooks Range? We question the meaning of progress in one of the most remote areas in the US. Read more
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
About this project
We are a small grassroots media team who have joined together to create a film about the Road to Ambler proposal in the Northern Alaska Brooks Range.
Last summer, we completed a 350-mile packraft expedition and filmed the Brooks Range as it has never been seen before. This year we are going back to complete the story.
The Brooks Range is North America’s most rugged wilderness and one of Earth’s largest roadless areas. In 2013, the State of Alaska proposed building a 225-mile industrial access road to facilitate the construction of an open-pit copper mine near the village of Ambler. This would be the largest road development project in Alaska since the Dalton Highway, built to facilitate the construction of the pipeline.
The Ambler Road would parallel six subsistence communities, cross 161 rivers and streams (two of them designated Wild and Scenic Rivers) and pass through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The proposed Ambler Mining District serves as habitat for salmon, whitefish and sheefish as well as a crucial migration corridor for Alaska's largest caribou herd, the Western Arctic.
Simultaneously, society’s demand for copper increases and the Ambler Mining District is estimated to hold one of the richest copper mineral deposits in the world. Trilogy Metals, a main stakeholder of the road, believes that the road and mine will bring well paying jobs, training and educational opportunities to a region of high unemployment with few other economic prospects to local villages while providing for a growing worldwide demand. The Bureau of Land Management is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, the first step in building a road to Ambler.
THE AMBLER MINING DISTRICT | The remote bornite mining camp located outside of Kobuk is operational for three months every summer and employs over 100 people to drill for core samples and produce environmental assessments of the area.
SUBSISTENCE LIVING | Paving Tundra will actively address the potential sacrifice of subsistence lifestyles to meet the demands of a larger society dependent on copper.
Paving Tundra will be a 30-minute documentary that follows several characters embodying their own definitions of progress in the heart of Alaska’s Brooks Range. Our audience will be brought to the home of Inupiaq elder and subsistence resident Harry Douglas, who is fighting for his culture in the village of Ambler, where rapid modernization has already played a significant toll on traditional livelihood. We will spend time with 21-year-old Iri Hailstone, who is raising her one-year-old child while living in her family’s fish camp. She survives off the land as her ancestors have for centuries, and will eventually teach her son to do the same. We will also take the audience into the Ambler Mining District, where William Patterson, one of the most respected young hunters in the village of Kobuk, reveals his story as a machine operator in the mining industry. Trilogy Metals has named William the caretaker of the mining site while also offering him benefits, including a college scholarship. Additional interviews will feature the President of Trilogy, more Iñupiaq and Athabascan tribal members and other stakeholders. We will challenge audiences to examine their own concept of progress as we reveal the environmental complexities of the Brooks Range that resonate on an international scale.
THE NARRATOR | Seth Kantner, is a homesteader of the Brooks Range and a best-selling author. His writing and photographs have appeared in Outside, National Geographic, Orion and the New York Times. According to Mark Kamine of the New York Times Book Review, Seth’s novel, Ordinary Wolves, “has scope and style to match its subjects, the wide-open spaces of Alaska and youth.”
Last year we packrafted 350 miles into the Brooks Range to film and live in six of the Iñupiaq and Athabascan villages. We attended village council meetings and rites of passage, wrecked gear, camped with bears and mosquitos, hunted caribou and slept in fish camps. Some nights we didn't sleep. Some nights we questioned where the next day’s food would come from. We watched the sunset at 2am and sunrise at 4am. We wondered what progress meant in this place that felt isolated from everything we knew. And we filmed it all, seeking to capture Northern Alaska as its never been seen before. This critical first expedition helped us find characters and capture the landscape of one of Earth’s most remote places.
We need more time to film in the Brooks Range to develop this complex story of progress. This year we will be spending time at the exploratory mining site, following several of our pivotal characters, and develop the film's narration on the ground with Seth Kantner.
JAYME DITTMAR | Director
Jayme is a national award winning filmmaker and producer. She has directed and created content for Montana PBS, the National Park Service, the Wilderness Institute and Teton Gravity Research.
TOM ATTWATER | Cinematographer
Tom is a photographer and filmmaker living in Missoula, Montana, where he received his BFA in Media Arts and Digital Video Production from the University of Montana. When he’s not behind a camera, he spends his time working as a river guide and backcountry instructor.
LANE BROWN | Cinematographer
Lane is an artist and an award winning documentary filmmaker. He grew up exploring the rivers and mountains of Montana while earning his BFA in Digital Filmmaking. He is focused on sharing unique stories through his art
JAMES Q MARTIN | Producer | Expedition Photographer
“Q” is a national award winning filmmaker, providing 20 years' experience shooting film and photos in over 30 different countries, spanning 6 continents. Deeply rooted in the outdoor industry, Q crafts authentic, story-driven, supporting content seen in international film festivals, network cable television, and social media.
KRISTIN GATES | Logistic Coordinator
Kristin is a long distance hiker, dog musher, wilderness EMT, and writer. She has trekked 10,000+ miles on long distance trails since the age of 18, paddled the length of the Yukon River, and is best known for becoming the first woman to traverse Alaska's Arctic Brooks Range solo on a 1,000 mile route.
AATCHA UQTUNIQ | Morale Canine Unit
Aatcha was born and raised in the village of Shungnak in the Brooks Range. We adopted her in as part of the crew while the Paving Tundra team was temporarily living in the Cleveland family fish camp on our first expedition. She continues to provide moral support for the team while in production.
We have partnered with the outdoor industry, several Alaskan artists and other "friends of Paving Tundra" to offer you a wide variety of award levels to choose from. From hammocks and ulus to sled dog rides and other inclusive documentary experiences, we hope you can find something that calls to you and inspires you to join our campaign.
Risks and challenges
Filming in the far reaches of the Brooks Range above the Arctic Circle is challenging simply by its geographical isolation. Then you add the realities of local politics, crazy weather and the vast distances between villages, it can quickly feel overwhelming. We are aware of our challenges and how to overcome them. This is our second field season and we have gathered terabytes of footage and developed our experience in how to navigate this area to work effectively. WE LOVE THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGES OF THIS PROJECT, and the process it takes to navigate creatively. We now have the contacts and the connections with the people on the ground as well. With our combined strengths, we will be able to finish gathering the footage we need to produce this film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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