Documentary - Completed 2014

At the Arctic edge of America, five Native Alaskan teenagers strive to be both modern American kids and the inheritors of an endangered whaling culture.

& Awards

Zurich FF 2014
Focus: Switzerland, Germany, Austria
    • Year of production
    • 2014
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 94 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Writer(s)
    • Taylor SEGREST
    • Producer(s)
    • Vesna ECKERT (Envi Films)
    • Synopsis
    • Children of the Arctic is a year­‐in-the­‐life portrait of five Native Alaskan teenagers coming of age in Barrow, Alaska -­ the northernmost community of the United States. As they embark on their journey into adulthood in and outside of Barrow, they wrestle with their roles as inheritors of a jeopardized culture. Their decisions are inseparably tied to the fate of their community. Who will carry the Iñupiat torch? Who will choose a more individualistic path? And what hangs in the balance?

      For the Iñupiat teenagers of Barrow growing up has become a little more complicated than it was for their ancestors who originally named this place “Ukpiaġvik” (“a place to hunt snowy owls”). They are the twenty‐first century descendants of a culture that has endured for more than a millennium on this isolated, but now rapidly changing tundra. The trappings of western civilization betray a fusion of cultures that can appear seamless. When a polar bear wanders toward town nowadays, the community is alerted via Facebook. Yet their centuries-­old hunting culture is still alive and well.

      The harvest of the endangered aġviq (bowhead whale) remains the heart of their culture ­‐ in the fall, motor boats and modern methods are used, whereas, in the spring, whaling crews use the umiaq (a hand-­made seal-­skin boat) and ancient traditional methods. But under the weight of societal and environmental issues, these promising teenagers are finding it challenging to sustain the adaptability that has long defined their people in one of the most inhospitable places on earth.