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The Filmmakers

Michael Kirby Smith & Andrew Burton
Marie Meade
A Note On Agency From the Directors

This story was led by the people of Newtok

We set out to tell Newtok’s story because we felt it was one of the most important and underreported stories unfolding in America. As non-Indigenous journalists and filmmakers working in an Indigenous community, we were keenly aware of our position as outsiders and the fraught history of Western journalists getting Native stories wrong. The community didn’t need this story to be told in order to relocate their village, but the rest of America needed to hear it. Mass climate migrations are on our doorstep—whether we’re feeling the effects now or not. In an attempt to do the best job possible, we rooted ourselves in the history and issues of Newtok by interviewing dozens of scientists, historians, anthropologists, philosophers and elders and by spending more than 300 days in the village. The film’s producer, Marie Meade, is a Yup’ik scholar and elder with ancestral roots in Newtok and was vital to the filmmaking process, leading all Yup’ik interviews, translations and overseeing cultural accuracy. She knew the questions we didn’t know to ask. Additionally, we assembled a majority female and majority Indigenous editorial and advisory board made up of scholars, historians, journalists, philosophers and village members to review rough cuts of the film and to cover the blind spots that inevitably existed in our perspective. Ultimately, this film is a collaboration with the village, and we tried to include the community in every step of the filmmaking process. The final documentary incorporates Newtok’s music, home videos, poetry, theater, dance and language. Our goal was to have the people of Newtok lead the story.

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