The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Title VI — which focuses on Alaska Native and Native American education — is hosting an Indigenous Language Film Festival and is encouraging anyone from the Kenai Peninsula to submit their work.
The purpose of the festival is to promote and increase the visibility of Indigenous languages, Title VI Specialist Rachel Pioch said. The festival is looking for films between a minute and 5 minutes in length that use at least some dialogue in an Indigenous language.
Films can be submitted until February, when a live simulcast will be held showing off the submissions.
After the festival, the films are intended to be used as learning materials in the KPBSD and in Alaska Native tribal classrooms, Pioch said.
The idea for the festival came from one recently held in Europe, Pioch said. In that case, the goal was to spotlight ancient Gaelic.
“I was very interested in that,” Pioch said. “Short films with a portion of the dialogue in the Indigenous language. I thought we could do that here.”
Within KPBSD, Tebughna School, Nanwalek School and Port Graham School all feature Indigenous language classes, but Pioch said the goal was always to approach the whole Kenai Peninsula community. She reached out to local tribal organizations, including the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and Chugachmiut. An eight-person advisory committee was assembled including Native Alaskan elders to ensure cultural sensitivity.
“We didn’t want it to be, ‘you have to be with the school district,’” Pioch said. “We want the private schools here, we want community members … I would love to see connection with kids and their elders.”
There are five groups in the festival that submissions will be placed in. Three of these are for age groups for students: birth to fourth grade, fifth to eighth grade, ninth to 12th grade. The other two are for adults and for large groups including families or classes. Films can feature anywhere from 1-100% of the dialogue in an Indigenous language. Films must also be entirely family friendly; the festival’s website says they must be “G” rated, in reference to the Motion Picture Association of America’s familiar film rating system.
Filmmakers must also get permission, via signed media releases, for all participants in the films.
Suggested topics include teaching the audience something, making the audience laugh, singing a song or telling a story.
Title VI is a federal grant that supports Alaska Native and Native American students nationwide. Pioch said a big focus of the Title VI program in KPBSD is cultural education through events like the film festival. Increasing cultural engagement and increasing Indigenous content in the classroom, such as students at K-Beach Elementary constructing Dena’ina drums with the help of members of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, has been made possible through strengthening relationships with local tribal governments.
“It’s connecting to the land, history and culture,” Pioch said. “Any person is going to benefit from connecting to the land where they live and then learning about the history of that land and its people.”
More information about KPBSD Title VI and the Indigenous Language Film Festival can be found on the KPBSD website or on Facebook at KPBSD Title VI.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.