Alutiiq Language Film Screens in Canada

Candace Branson speaks about Alutiiq language. Screen cap from trailer of Keep Talking. (Courtesy of Keep Talking)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The creators of a documentary on Alutiiq language – or sugcestun – revitalization are screening the film across the country and will end up back on the island this winter.

“Keep Talking” features the stories of Candace Branson, Marya Halvorsen, Lynda Lorenson, and Sadie Coyle.

Director and producer Karen Weinberg says all four women found empowerment through the language.

And she says, in a larger sense, the film is about the importance of culture and community.

“In today’s world where there’s such a push toward mechanization, globalization, computers, smartphones, we’re really turning away from each other as a society and I feel like the film takes us back to what’s really important in life.”

She says the documentary held its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival and its message has so far appeared to resonate with audiences.

“We were really fortunate to speak with a bunch of First Nations people both in the press and at the screening and, as it was described to me, there’s a very thin line between the United States, especially Alaska and Canada.”

She says there are a lot of similarities between the United States’ and Canada’s policies toward indigenous people– historically and, according to some, to this day.

The sugcestun scene in Kodiak is only one of the ongoing efforts to save endangered languages across North America.

Weinberg emphasizes the need for action.

“The United States through Indian boarding schools and other assimilation techniques that have been employed here and elsewhere really have already done so much damage I think we owe it to ourselves and the cultures that have been hurt to pay more attention and give this issue its due.”

Weinberg says, after the screening in Vancouver, other festivals expressed interest in the film. “Keep Talking” will screen next in Hawaii. The crew will also visit Kodiak and Anchorage, possibly in early December.

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