Yesterday started the International Sled Dog Symposium in Fairbanks. As part of that, they showed an old dog sled movie about George Attla called Spirit of the Wind. He’s considered the father of modern sled dog racing.
We went to the movie. It was a lot of fun. George Attla himself along with many of the actors from the movie were there as well. There was a diverse mix of people at the movie ranging from kids like mine to adults and even village elders. The movie was free and written up in yesterday’s paper so besides those involved in working dogs, several people were there just to watch the movie from Fairbanks. The movie first premiered 30 years ago here in Fairbanks.
There was a festive atmosphere in the theater at Pioneer Park’s civic center during the movie. Many of the older people had seen the movie before although there were many kids and younger adults who hadn’t. Richard got excited during a scene where they are pulling fish from a net into a river boat. He said “I’ve done that! I know how to do that!” When they showed a bunch of large salmon steaks grilling, the crowd let out a group MMMM. Many wows were heard when huge salmon fell out of the fish wheel. There were several group laughs (including some inside jokes that probably wouldn’t have been funny to anyone outside Alaska or dog mushing), ahhs when Attla falls off his sled in a race, and other group reactions not typical of a large movie audience giving a sense of camaraderie to the movie.
Everyone clapped when the final credits were shown, but very few people walked out of the theater. When Attla stood up, we all clapped again even harder then gave him a standing ovation. It was a great moment of the evening.
I’m glad we went to the movie. Not only was it a good Alaskan history movie, but it gave a glimpse of village life not tainted by Hollywood. It was filmed in the late 1970’s but the story takes place during the 1950’s. It featured subsistence activities like trapping, fishing and fish camp, and of course dog mushing. There were also shots of Fairbanks which was set up to be the Anchorage in the 1950’s (although most Alaskans know the Mecca Bar is in downtown Fairbanks not Anchorage). I am going to use this as part of Richard Alaskan cultural studies requirements.