Bristol Bay High School Student Film Accepted into the Anchorage International Film Festival Youth Competition
The collaborative partnership between the NN Cannery History Project, See Stories and the Bristol Bay Borough School District aims to teach students the value of local history.
ANCHORAGE, AK –Naknek student filmmakers--Kaeli Pulice and Ashlynn Young--have been accepted into the Anchorage International Film Festival and Alaska Teen Media Institute annual Youth Film Festival for their entry, “Cannery Art.” According to the student filmmakers, the 3-minute film explores “the art in canneries and the stories that it tells.” Stories range from the early 20th century commercial art designed by canners to sell Alaska salmon to markets worldwide to the often-anonymous artistic expressions of cannery workers.
The “Art in Canneries” short film highlights cannery music, poetry, and graffiti that give voice to the historically overlooked processors and reflect the cultural composite of the cannery workscape. Insightful interviews were provided by former Alaskero and poet Robert Flor, former NN Cannery worker and fisherwoman Becky Savo, Naknek resident BJ Hill and historian Katherine Ringsmuth.
The student filmmakers made their film during a two-week digital storytelling workshop entitled, “Voice of the Past, Digital Storytelling for the Future,” which took place at the Bristol Bay High School in Naknek from September 24 through October 6. The workshop was made possible by the NN Cannery History Project, a grassroots public history endeavor that, through the historical lens of work, aims to share the oft-forgotten stories of the multitudes who canned salmon in Alaska and created an ethnically diverse, economically vital, cannery culture. The workshop fulfills one of four project deliverables.
“The aim for the workshop is to continue the local tradition of caretaker,” said NN Cannery History Project director Katherine Ringsmuth. “But instead of cannery caretakers, the storytelling program will provide local youth with the skills, responsibility and confidence to become caretakers of cannery history and curators of cannery people’s stories.” The student films will be incorporated into the exhibition at the Alaska State Museum called Mug Up, which will explain to the broader public why the task of canning salmon shaped history as told through the stories, perspectives and products of Alaska’s cannery crews.
Nineteen Bristol Bay High School students participated and produce 17 short films that documented stories associated with the 128-year-old <NN> Cannery at South Naknek. Films reflect a variety of topics, including Mug Up Stories, Women Workers, and the 1919 Flu Pandemic. Each student received credit from the University of Alaska Bristol Bay Campus.
The workshop was facilitated by the nationally-recognized educational consultant, Marie Acemah, owner of See Stories. “This course aimed to connect youth with the past to deepen understanding of their dynamic heritage,” said Acemah. “The acceptance of the students’ film into the [Anchorage International] Film Festival shows that by introducing students to the craft of filmmaking, storytelling and oral history, we can give them the opportunity to become caretakers of their history.”
Student filmmakers learned to appreciate their individual stake in their community. As interviewee and former cannery worker BJ Hill stated, “I think if you preserve your local history you enrich your life so deeply, you'll feel like you belong to this land, and you'll be more protective of what happens to it in the future."
Critical local assistance was provided by the NN Cannery History Project’s local curator LaRece Egli, Bristol Bay Borough Martin Monsen Librarian Sheila Ring and Fine Arts teacher Patricia Edel.
Generous support for the workshop came from a National Park Service Underrepresented Communities Grant and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. The Alaska Association for Historic Places and the Naknek Native Village Council also assisted in securing funding.
The Alaska Teen Media Institute’s After School Special: Weekend Edition takes place on Saturday December 8 from 2-4pm at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. All films screened were directed and produced by Alaska youth (ages 21 and under). “This is an incredible opportunity for youth filmmakers to have their work shown on a big screen in front of a live audience, and be a part of an international film festival,” notes the Alaska Teen Media Institute’s Facebook page.