A Scandinavian Culture & Film Fest on Kodiak, a remote island in Alaska! Great success! How is that possible? Well, because there is something special about the people on the ”Island of the Great Bear.” They come from many different countries and cultures: Europeans, Mexicans, Filipinos, Samoans, Sugpiaqs, et al., as well as all of those with Scandinavian heritage. In earlier blogs I’ve written about many of my friends on Kodiak who’s father or grandfather came from Scandinavia.
From November 6 -12, 2017 we highlighted Scandinavian culture. During the festival participants could learn to bake Norwegian lefsa, research genealogy, discover Scandinavian history, clothing and tools, and find out about the Sami reindeer herders of Alaska. Hundreds of students learned about Scandinavian music and dance, and even built simple instruments similar to those the early immigrants had brought with them from Scandinavia. There was a lecture on the Finnish influence on Alaskan architecture, and a Crosscut Saw where participants had to learned to work together using the 2-man saws that were used in logging before we had chain saws.
I first came to Kodiak 30 years ago, in 1988, with the plans to produce a film about the Kodiak bear, an idea that developed into so much more. I met Mike Rostad, a young man from Minnesota with Norwegian roots. Mike was interested in people and their stories, an enthusiasm that rubbed off on me. When I realized that most of the native people on Kodiak were also of Scandinavian heritage, I was intrigued. How had that happened? I began interviewing people and heard many exciting stories about people from a far-away land, about overcoming difficulties and remarkable encounters. My film archives expanded with hundreds of hours of interviews.
It must be more than 10 years ago that Mike Rostad approached me with the idea of arranging a festival centered around the film material I had collected throughout the years. It was a good idea, but kind of daunting so I pushed it off into a distant future, but Mike didn’t give up. He kept asking me year after year, coming with different ideas about a Scandinavian film festival.
I think it was in the fall of 2013 that the plans began to ripen. I told Mike that, if there was going to be a festival, we needed to decide on a date and start planning. We were four people around the dinner table at the Rostad house: Sonny Vinberg and myself, as well as Mike and his wife, Kathy. We decided on a date in 2015 which was later postponed to 2017. All good idea need time to ”ripen.”
Last fall, 2016, we called our first meeting, planning for the festival. There were many different ideas and opinions about what should be included in the festival, but Mike took the helm and steered the committee until November 2017 when the first Kodiak Scandinavian Culture & Film Fest opened. The festival was a great success and all who participated were amazed and grateful that we had organized an event like this on Kodiak.
For my part the festival became a sort of film editing marathon. I began last winter to organize the enormous amount of material I had accumulated over 30 years. All available time went to working with he films I planned to show at the festival. But, like so often happens, I was working up until the very last minute. I planned to show seven longer documentaries, plus a few shorter bonus films. This was, as far as I remember, the largest project I have ever worked with.
Luckily I had jetlag from the 10 hour time difference from Sweden. I’d wake up at 2 am every morning, but that was ok. I’d get up and start working and then continue throughout the day. For 10 days prior to the festival and throughout the festival week I worked nights polishing the films I would be showing. There is always small details that need adjusting – sound, lighting, music and transitions – things most people don’t notice but that I wanted to get done to make the films as nice as possible.
There were many people involved, and who were a tremendous contribution to the festival. Four of our friends from Minnesota, Ross, Art, Bruce and Char came to Kodiak and added luster with their music and dance. Everyone on the planning committee and in charge of various events deserve a round of applause, but without Mike and Kathy Rostad’s early vision and diligens the festival could never have happened.
Plans for another Kodiak Scandinavian Culture & Film Fest are already underway! The vision lives on!
If you missed the festival the films will soon be available on our Vimeo pay per view site. Check the festival website for details