Tonight is the world premiere of director Karen Lynn Weinberg’s debut documentary,, at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the film screens at 6:30PM, with an additional screening on October 5 at 10:45AM. The prestigious festival (now in its 36th year) is dedicated to promoting understanding of the world’s cultures through the art of cinema. Purchase tickets here.
The film will be featured in the fest's Impact Stream, featuring uncompromising documentaries that seek to change the way viewers see the world.
Keep Talking follows four Alaska Native women fighting to save Kodiak Alutiiq, an endangered language now spoken by less than 40 remaining fluent Native Elders. Their small community travels to remote Afognak Island to start teaching kids Alutiiq. At the camp, Sadie, a troubled teen, is inspired to begin learning the language and dances of her ancestors. Over the next 5 years the women overcome historical and personal traumas to find joy and hope in the revitalization of their cultural heritage.
The film is the directorial debut of film editor and producer Karen Lynn Weinberg, who previously worked on films including Spilled Water (2014), Racing Dreams (2009), and Frozen River (2008). After traveling to Kodiak, Alaska in February of 2012 as a film instructor, Weinberg learned that her editing class was made up of culture bearers working to preserve their endangered Native language. A filmmaker with a passion for language, Weinberg was thrilled when the Native Village of Afognak met with Elders and they agreed to allow her to film their first attempt at a language immersion camp. As filming continued over the next five years, Weinberg immersed herself in Alaska Native history, with a focus on Kodiak Alutiiq history. She studied endangered language revitalization challenges, methodologies and rewards.
“As a filmmaker, I have often wondered what could be gained by decreasing my screen time and increasing my sense of cultural connection (I am a secular Jew). I think that’s why I was so captivated by the Kodiak Alutiiq community; they were drawing such strength and joy from their language revitalization efforts. These learners and Elders are actively engaged in interpersonal connection as they transmit cultural knowledge from one generation to the next. I thought, they are onto something really special here. I wanted to understand what drove them, and why it was such a powerful force.” said Weinberg.
Weinberg followed the Alutiiq community’s language revitalization movement up close and from afar, while staying in close contact with the main film subjects. Spending additional time talking, meeting and participating in language events, both with and without cameras, allowed her to better understand community intricacies, personal challenges and rewards.
“I was fortunate to work with Kari Sherod, a member of the Kodiak Alutiiq community, as a co-producer. Valuable advice was also offered by experts within the community and we built an outside advisory board of experts as well. A final crucial step was signoff on the film by the Elders Council, which we gratefully received. All of these collaborators helped me to understand the layers of sensitivity and emotion packed into language revitalization, and the lasting impact of historical trauma. As the film began to take shape, I held multiple private and small group screenings because community feedback and signoff on a project like this is key,” said Weinberg.
UNESCO estimates that at least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. National Geographic estimates that one language dies every 2 weeks. With each language that is lost, we lose the collective knowledge embedded within that language, and that culture loses their richest tie to ancestral heritage, wisdom and self expression.
Keep Talking is directed and produced by Karen Lynn Weinberg, executive produced by Justine Nagan, Gordon Quinn and Betsy Steinberg, co-produced by Trish Dalton, Rachel Rozycki and Kari Sherod. Cinematography by Nara Garber, edited by Lesley Kubistal and produced by Ten Trees Productions, Kartemquin Films and Vision Maker Media.