Alaska Far Away returns to Twin Cities Public Television tonight (Monday, May 27) at 9:00 p.m. CDT.
On May 10, 1935, 67 families from Minnesota arrived in the Matanuska Valley of Alaska as part of a bold New Deal project. We have been privileged to meet and interview many of those original colonists during the course of making Alaska Far Away. In 1996, with support from the Minnesota Humanities Commission, we drove through Minnesota conducting research, and filming interviews. In Pine City we filmed Dorothy Bell and her daughter, Wanda Bell Showalter. Dorothy had brought her piano to Alaska; her husband brought his bee hives. In Cambridge, we talked to Donald Sundberg, who, at the tender age of 19, had been a social worker tasked with selecting families for the project. In Mora, we interviewed a "colony kid" who told us that money during the Depression was so tight that the kids weren't allowed to wear shoes during the summer; they had to save them for the winter. And in Duluth we interviewed a marvelous historian, Matti Kaups, who provided insights into the history and politics of the Cutover region that greatly enriched our film.
Since the release of Alaska Far Away in 2008, we have had the privilege of showing our film in Minnesota many times. We have criss-crossed the state, with live screenings in St. Paul, Winona, Cloquet, Duluth, International Falls, Wrenshall, Denmark Township, Ely, Fosston, Moose Lake and (right across the border from Minnesota), in Fargo. The broadcasts have taken place at film festivals, and in public libraries, historical societies large and small, a church, a converted funeral parlor, a 100-year old barn, and even a movie theatre! And at every screening, folks in the audience would come forward to let us know that members of their family were part of the Matanuska Colony in 1935.
Alaska Far Away has reached an even wider audience through public television, with broadcasts in 2011 on Twin Cities Public Television, Lakeland Public Television, and WDSE in Duluth. We are honored that all of these stations will be showing our film again this summer, with another Minnesota station joining the group: Pioneer Public Television in Appleton. Stay tuned: we'll keep you posted when the other screenings are scheduled.
In the meantime, do we wish we could be in Minnesota with you tonight, watching on TPT? You bet.