Alaska Documentary Takes Up-Close Look at Suicide Among Natives
Photo courtesy Gwanzhii LLC. Filmmaker Marsh Chamberlain is pictured during a winter shoot of “We Breathe Again,” a documentary film project set in Alaska. The film is raising funds through Kickstarter.com.
FAIRBANKS — “In a landscape as dramatic as its stories, Alaska Native people face staggering suicide rates, yet remain determined to heal and thrive.”
So begins the description of “We Breathe Again,” a documentary film in progress on Kickstarter.com, an Internet funding platform for creative projects.
“We Breathe Again, Heartbreak & Hope in Alaska," is a collaboration between Gwanzhii LLC, the Indigenous Leadership Institute and Crawl Walk Run, whose principals form a tight-knit team that began filming more than a year ago in several locations around the state.
To date, the project has been funded with a lot of volunteer hours by numerous people and a couple of individual donors.
The group is seeking a project goal of $15,000 on Kickstarter.com to help finance another six months of filming to create a feature-length film for television and the theater.
There are just a few days left for donors to contribute toward the project goal. It closes early Thursday morning, Alaska time.
Although Alaska has the highest suicide rate per capita in the nation, the film doesn’t focus on statistics but portrays real people who have suffered, struggled and overcome hardships.
A Fairbanks Native couple, Evon and Enei Begaye Peter, and New York filmmaker Marsh Chamberlain, who has family connections in Alaska, fortuitously met via friends in 2010 and began collaborating on the project.
Chamberlain was moved to focus on suicide talking to an Inupiaq cousin who visited him on the East Coast in 2007.
“He lost two childhood friends to suicide, which dramatically impacted his community and his life, and he talked about wanting to make a difference,” Chamberlain said.
After meeting Evon, who has been working throughout Alaska with Native communities in suicide prevention, community wellness and healing, and developing young indigenous leaders, Chamberlain realized his life was changed.
“I feel really lucky to have met Evon, he’s a wonderful, inspiring person, and to have this wonderful, passionate and knowledgeable team together.
“Evon has opened the door for me. That has been the key to tell this story and make this film.”
Chamberlain says the spirit of the film is “grassroots... creative collectives” defined by collaboration.
As co-producers, Evon and Enei’s insight, experience and talents bring focus and balance.
At 17, Evon said he was a product of generational abuse and a high school dropout in a downward spiral with drugs and alcohol, when he decided to turn his life around.
A year later, he was involved in leadership development as a college student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and made the decision “to be there with Native youth.”
Today, at 36, the Gwich’in Athabascan holds university degrees, was Arctic Village chief for three years, is a father and family man, and has kept his commitment to serve young people, through healing workshops and camps around the state.