A documentary focusing on the revitalization of the Alutiiq language premieres in Kodiak

Karen Weinberg with Eli Kniaziowski at the premiere of Keep Talking. (Photo courtesy of Nara Garber)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

The documentary Keep Talking recently premiered in Kodiak. It focuses on efforts to keep the Alutiiq language alive in the region. KMXT spoke with the film’s director and some audience members about the movie’s message.

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It took years and hundreds of hours of footage to make the documentary Keep Talking. But when the film’s credits rolled at its premiere in Kodiak, it was met with the distinct sound of applause.

The film focuses on residents of Kodiak working to revitalize the Alutiiq language. Karen Weinberg is the director of Keep Talking. She says the project has meant a lot to her. It was her first time directing a feature-length film and:

“It might be my only. It’s a lot of work man. It was five years to make this film. So, you know I loved it and it’s the best and hardest thing I’ve done with my life.”

Weinberg is from the Chicago area and works as a video editor. She first came to Kodiak about six years ago to teach a film editing course. While here she realized there was a story to be told. She says she didn’t know anything about the Alutiiq culture or language before traveling to the region. But she thinks that lack of knowledge helped her make the movie.

“I entered this project knowing I was the dumbest person in the room and that was definitely, I think  the right way to approach it because you know you have to know what you don’t know and you have to be willing to make mistakes and ask the dumb questions and get schooled by the community to really understand.”

Weinberg describes the film as a love letter to Kodiak. She hopes it will inspire support to save Alutiiq and other endangered languages around the world.

“I’ve heard many times in working on this ‘Why bother saving a language that nobody speaks? What’s the point?’ I was like hopefully that person will watch this film and see value in the work.”

According to the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, there are currently around 20 fluent speakers of the Kodiak style of Alutiiq. Weinberg believes even with a small amount of speakers, people should still be taught the language. Audience members at the premiere, like Mary Fern, agree. She’s Alutiiq and wants her grandkids to have the opportunity to speak their native language.

“All over the Native people have had things taken from them. You know, look at all the lower-48 Indians that lost their lands. You know, we’re fortunate to have our lands, but we lost our language, you know, and that’s part of our culture and we should have it back.”

Phyl Frets is a high schooler who’s currently taking an Alutiiq language class at Kodiak High School. He says it’s helping him better understand his culture.

Frets: “I feel like it’s a part of every Native’s past that should be brought back to life.”

Borden:“Why?”

Frets: “So we can remember who we are.”

And now this film will help bring awareness to the Alutiiq language and the people it affects. After its showing in Kodiak, Keep Talking will continue to be shown at events around the country, including the Anchorage International Film Festival.

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