DIRECTOR CATHARINE AXLEY WILL INTRODUCE THE FILM, AND HOST A LIVE Q&A AFTERWARDS.
ATTLA is the story of an Alaska Native dogsled racer who, with one good leg and a determined mindset, rose to international fame to become a sports legend. Part dog whisperer, part ingenious businessman, part conniving competitor, part teenage heartthrob, George Attla defies characterization, living through a unique period of history when Western education, economies, and culture penetrated into the Alaskan bush and village lifestyle, and forever changed the state with the discovery of oil in the late 1960’s.
ATTLA interweaves Attla’s story into the final chapter of his life, as he emerges from retirement to train his twenty-year-old grandnephew, Joe Bifelt, to restore a racing village tradition by competing in the world’s largest dogsled sprint race that has experienced a sharp decline of Native racers. The recent rise in substance abuse, mental health issues, and suicide in both Attla’s village and villages across the state is Attla’s primary motivation in seeking a way to bring peace and resilience to his community in the only way he knows how — dogs. His young grandnephew, Bifelt, provides a window through which we learn the challenges of balancing a Native identity and lifestyle within a Western system of education and work, while living in the remote, harsh interior. As the months pass and the dogs get stronger, the film takes a dramatic turn when Attla is unexpectedly diagnosed with bone cancer and must leave Bifelt to seek treatment in Anchorage.