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new film about Kivalina, climate change victim

Gina Abatemarco

This stunning if downer film about the ecological/cultural/socioeconomic travails of Alaskan Inupiaq village of Kivalina came out in 2015 to much acclaim in Berlin, and is finally on West Coast- the debut of Gina Abatemarco - click link here. Kivalina is the village that sued Big Oil some years back and made headlines.

Imo, some people of the large Inupiat community (as well as indigenous people all over the world) will be offended by the dark end-times doomy focus on not just climate change caused by the world burning fossil fuels but also cultural decline and grim social problems - at least that is how the trailer makes the film appear.

There is a mighty renaissance going on right now in Alaska Native societies, with a resurgence of language and arts and respect for the old ways and righting of past wrongs by outsiders - and people are getting more and more empowered. Indigenous people of many different cultures and parts of the world are uniting to fight back against destruction and racism, as seen in the protest in N. Dakota.

I don't know yet if the film shows that beautiful and hopeful side. Yet in a huge contradiction there is also this shocking collapse of the natural world, rising rates of poverty - due to governmental austerity, oil dependency, the Great Recession still working its evil, and other factors - and many in the electronically hooked up/globally assimilated younger generation with no way to make a living seem to be in severe shock.

The trailer's doomy mood is exacerbated by the ominous music and the quote of an elder about Kingdom Come...(for me, not a problem, enjoying that kind of music, and it does seem"end times" for a village being flooded by the sea and losing hunters to thin ice, and it is the truth that marginalized villages and towns all over the world are traumatized by rising suicide rates, drug addiction, the legacy of racism/ sex abuse by outsiders, and attempted genocide of their culture, and poverty - would it be truthful to not explore the social woes that are intrinsically linked with the natural world?

However, villages and Native societies are rightfully weary of outsiders constantly arriving to judge, to make works of art (or propaganda) based mainly on the problems they see in the short time they visit, and to misunderstand. A lot of historically oppressed people feel they should be the ones to make the art (or propaganda) about their own society; otherwise it is appropriation and another form of colonial abuse.  

Back to the trailer: images of cut up animals (supplying the vital food as well as spiritual bond with the Earth and its denizens) may offend or shock vegans or animal rights proponents, as I have found in some readers of my novel Flight of the Goose. This is the old way and how non-agricultural people survived for eons, and is far more humane than factory farms, far more nutritious and economical a way of subsistence. People would not survive in Kivalina if they became vegan or had to buy meat from the local store. So give them a break.

All being said, I look forward, though dread too, seeing this film. What happens to Kivalina will happen to all humans. Don't turn away.

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