Anchorage International Film Festival’s immense growth and what it means for Alaska’s filmmakers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Over the past year, the Anchorage International Film Festival has been making strides as it showcases films that are a big part of the cultural identity in Alaska.

As AIFF comes to a wrap, filmmakers from Alaska, internationally and others gathered at a celebratory bonfire on Sunday.

There, Alaska’s News Source interviewed Ida Theresa Myklebost, the director of the festival, who said the event attracted 4,000 audience members, 70 filmmakers and featured five sold-out screenings.

“This festival is something to be really, really proud of here in Alaska. Not only is it the biggest film festival in Alaska, but it’s really hit those international maps, it’s on the radar for international filmmakers,” Myklebost said.

She maintains the festival has grown over the years, but over the last year, it has made a huge jump. This year out of 13,000 film festivals, MovieMaker magazine named AIFF as one of the coolest film festivals in the world.

Alaska’s filmmaking includes unique elements woven into the fabric of the state, but the industry doesn’t come without its challenges. Whether it’s finding the funding or filming in cold temperatures, it’s not easy being a filmmaker in Alaska.

“These films are passion projects, they come from blood, sweat, and tears from these filmmakers,” Myklebost said. “What you get then is the struggles of making it, being able to live off doing it, and the importance of it.”

She believes these films are more important than the blockbusters coming out of Hollywood, as they are coming from Alaska neighborhoods, communities, and various social issues in and around the world. One film this year was titled “WILD LIFE – The Lance Mackey Story,” a documentary she says saw praise from many in the industry.

“We love these independent films, and to know that the filmmakers are struggling so much with the finances to be able to supply this important material to the people, to the population, it breaks my heart, it shouldn’t be like that,” Myklebost said.

One goal of Myklebost is to bring international filmmakers and local filmmakers together to grow their network.

Robin Krumm, a big fan of the event, has been attending the festival for over two decades and said this year it “exploded.”

“This is the most accessible film festival ever, really, because you’re sitting next to filmmakers in the theatre and you’re talking to them about their films and their talking to each other, their meeting their fans,” Krumm said.

Krumm says there used to be a film credit that the state provided to encourage filmmakers and provided a base amount of money for production, which she believed helped in creating those films.

“We felt that when they took that away … it also helped our local filmmakers grow and you can see the change and the improvement in the quality — but it’s hard, it’s very difficult,” Krumm said.

Emily Niebuhr is an Alaska filmmaker who submitted a music video to the festival this year. She says her biggest challenge was filming in the cold, but the harsh elements ultimately added to the beauty of her film.

“There’s so much talent here in Alaska and it’s a great opportunity to showcase those,” Niebuhr said. “We have so many unique stories to tell in our state.”

Niebuhr believes if there was more funding put into filmmaking, it would blossom.

“Sometimes that talent has to leave the state to get those funding resources, but we have amazing stories already here,” Niebuhr said.

She hopes to see more platforms for films and funding to support filmmakers across the state.

AIFF takes place every December and goes on for 10 days.

Myklebost mentioned AIFF is currently functioning similarly to an elephant on a tricycle and hopes for additional sponsors and resources for running the festival in the future.

An extra screening for “WILD LIFE – The Lance Mackey Story,” is taking place on Dec. 14 at Bear Tooth Theatrepub. In addition, some of the winning films will be featured again on Dec. 16 at the Alaska Experience Theater.

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