Grantee: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Andrew Okpeaha MacLean is a film director and screenwriter creating works in international filmmaking arenas. His films are set in his homeland, shot on location in Barrow, Alaska, starring Iñupiat people. They are among the first feature films produced in the Iñupiaq language.
Andrew MacLean’s heritage is woven into how the characters make decisions, relate to each other and in how the plots develop. His work often explores paałaqtautaiññiq, a core value among his people which roughly translates as “non-violence” or “avoidance of conflict.” MacLean’s work examines how an individual and a community reacts to violence, identifying unique cultural responses to extreme situations.
The Sundance Institute Native Film Program, a NACF capacity-building awardee, selected his first work, the short film Sikumi to be developed in the Producers Lab. MacLean’s first feature-length film, On the Ice, screened at the Sundance Film Festival and at select theaters throughout the country.
With the support of an NACF Artist Fellowship in Film, MacLean began work on adapting the Iñuit story The Children of the Northern Lights (2013) for film. In the well-known story, a hunter sacrifices his own life to ensure the survival of the spirits of the Aurora Borealis. MacLean set the original legend in outer space, on a moon circling a distant planet. The story becomes an allegory for the choices we must make to ensure the survival of our own fragile world.
“The fellowship from NACF has given me the freedom to work on my next feature film; an opportunity which is invaluable to me career-wise and as an artist,” said MacLean. “The fellowship also allowed me to make a video adaptation of a poem by Iñupiaq Poet Cathy Tagnak Rexford, called Luis Gonzales Palma Never Took a Picture Here. The short is an experimental piece, partially shot in the home of an elder from Barrow, my great Uncle Tommy Brower, and partially assembled from home movie footage shot in Barrow in the 1950’s and 60’s.”
Children of the Northern Lights (2013) by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, completed during his fellowship year for ITVS’ Futurestates series. Two astronauts on a prospecting mission to find a new supply of energy crash land on a distant planet, where alien beings offer a chance at a survival — but at a great cost. Based on an Inuit myth about a hunter whose sacrifice saves the spirits of the Aurora Borealis.