directing team’s new short film for Patagonia and the Alaska Wilderness League
focuses on the Gwich’in people’s struggle against commercial exploitation of
their ancestral lands.
just released short film, The Refuge,
focuses on the Gwich’in people of Alaska and Northern Canada and their more
than three decade fight to protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling and other threats. It focuses, in particular,
on the story of two Gwich’in women who are helping to lead the effort to save
their ancestral home and the wildlife on which their life depends.
The film was produced by outdoor apparel company
Patagonia, directed by Finback, the directing team of Kahlil Hudson and Alex
Jablonski, who are represented for commercial projects by Los Angeles-based Accomplice
Media and produced by Finback’s Tyler Hughen.
and Kahlil,” notes Monika McClure, film and video producer for Patagonia. “They
brought so much depth to the project through their beautiful cinematography and
gift for storytelling.”
two women from Fairbanks to Arctic Village, on the southern edge of the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge, for a biennial Gwich’in Gathering. There they
documented the group’s ancient rituals and the subsistence lifestyle that they
have practiced for more than 20,000 years. “It was stunning to encounter an
untouched wilderness; there is so little of that left in the world,” recalls
Jablonski. “It was also a revelation to learn about the Gwich’in’ and how
closely their lives are entwined with the land.”
challenging. As there are no cars in Arctic Village, bulky film equipment had
to be transported by ATV or carried on foot. Electricity was also at a premium.
Hudson and Jablonski had access to just one electrical outlet for use in
charging camera equipment and computers.
Jablonski kept their filmmaking work as low key as possible even as they lived with
the group and took part in their activities. “They’re very inclusive people,”
recalls Hudson. “Everyone ate together, danced together and sang together. It’s
a very different type of filmmaking when you are taking part in the experience
you are recording, but that is what I appreciated most about it.”
aircraft to capture aerials of the spectacular and unspoiled environment. In
particular, they wanted to capture the sun rising over the vast expanse of snow
and trees, but the length of summer days in extreme northern Alaska made that
difficult. The sun did not set until after 1 a.m. and rose less than three
provided the opportunity they had been waiting for. “We got up, put the camera
on the bush plane and flew out at 4:30,” says Hudson, “and we hit perfect
light. It was coming in sideways through thick clouds and illuminating the most
beautiful language you’ve ever seen.”
gives people a sense of what that place is like,” adds Jablonski.
Refuge was recently screened at The Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of the American Indian. The film is being promoted in U.S.
retail stores and through email marketing. It can be viewed on the Patagonia
website at http://www.patagonia.com/the-refuge.html
of the Refuge and the ongoing struggles of native peoples to secure their
rights. “I hope we’ve done justice to the Gwin’ich,” he says. “It is humbling
to come in at the 11th hour after the tribe has been fighting to
preserve their way of life for more than 30 years.”