Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sexual Harassment - The New Environment And The Alaska Legislature

Today I got an email with a statement by Alaska State Senator Berta Garner about an investigation into a sexual harassment of State Senator David Wilson.  Senator Berta Gardner is my state Senator.  She's smart, warm, and not prone to speak without doing her homework.

I must admit that this is the first I've heard about this.  I'll plead Anchorage International Film Festival as my alibi for missing this last week.  Here are some earlier reports on the incident:

APRN piece dated Dec. 7, 2017.

KTUU report dated this afternoon.  It includes video of Sen. Wilson's statement, in which he asks for the Legislative Agency report be released along with the video, which is below. (If you can't see the video - I can't in my draft post here - it's at the link.)

Here's Senator Gardner's response to the Legislative Report.

Senator Gardner Responds to Legislative Report on Behavior of Senator Wilson
ANCHORAGE - Today, Senate Minority Leader and member of the Senate Rules Committee Berta Gardner gave the following statement in response to a vote taken to release a report from the Legislative Affairs Agency on the professional conduct of Senator David Wilson and his interaction with a legislative staffer. The members of the committee voted unanimously to release the content of the report, with the support of the staffer involved in the incident.
“Senator Wilson took out his cellphone, placed it down at the level of the hem of her skirt from a foot away for four seconds, saying he was going to record a closed meeting of House leadership. This behavior is consistent with what the staffer reported at the time. Such behavior is clearly intrusive, intimidating, and inappropriate to the staffer. It is also grossly unprofessional and unethical behavior from anyone, let alone a sitting member of the Senate.
“Coupled with the fact that Senator Wilson slapped a political reporter across the face in the Capitol building a short time before this incident, it demonstrates a disturbing pattern of poor judgement, bullying, and aggressive behavior. Senator Wilson should acknowledge his bad behavior, and apologize immediately to both the reporter and the staffer, taking full responsibility for his actions.”
Members of the press with questions may contact the Alaska Senate Democratic Press Secretary, Jeanne Devon, at 907-269-0129.

Senator Wilson argues that he's been exonerated.  I found a copy of the report at MidnightSun in a form that I can't seem to embed here.  You can see it at the Midnight Sun.  Here's a screenshot of the factual findings.

The report, by Skiff Lobaugh of the Legislative Affairs Agency - a pretty objective body does that analysis for legislators - goes on to look at the federal workplace harassment law and then matches the incident to the law.  It doesn't at all match the quid pro quo definition of harassment.  The second form requires a 'hostile work environment" which looks at

  1. frequency,
  2. severity, 
  3. whether it interferes with the employee's ability to her work, and
  4. whether it affects the employee's well being
Lobaugh noted that there was just one incident reported, that his intention was ambiguous - it seemed he was jokingly trying to record a behind closed doors meeting that the employee had been assigned to keep people out.   It did, he found, affect the employee's well being in the short run, but not in the long run.

He did acknowledge the unequal balance of power between an elected official and a legislator staffer who can be fired without cause.  

I'd note that while the employee discussed the incident at the time with others, including legislators, she never filed a complaint.  The staffer, on hearing various reports on the incident, requested a clarification from Leg Legal (the legal advisors to the legislature) about whether he was required to investigate since there are punishments for people who know but don't report, and was told he should.

We're in new territory here as long term social norms are getting reevaluated.  I think many of us tend to get defensive when accused of something we believe we didn't do.  My experience is we get worse if we actually did it.  I don't see how lowering a cell phone to hem level of a staffer's skirt is necessary to try to record a meeting behind the staffer and behind a door.  Playfulness only works between people who know each other well and/or are relatively equal in power.

Sen. Gardner's memo raises the issue of this incident happening about the same time as Sen. Wilson was reported as slapping a journalist, which is clearly out of line.  (The journalist didn't press charges.)

I find it interesting that the first two accusations we've heard of sexual harassment of Alaska state legislators in the post Weinstein era have been against a first term Alaska Native and a first term African-American.  Is this a coincidence?  The vast majority of legislators are white.  There is only one African-American in the legislature and a handful of Alaska Natives out of a total of 60 in both houses.

Monday, December 11, 2017

AIFF 2017: Saving Brinton Look At A Few Of Those Old Movies With John Zahs

Saving Brinton tied fort 3rd in the AIFF 2017 documentary category.(See all the winners here.) It won the audience award for docs.  Here's part of Mike Zahs' talk after it was shown in Anchorage with some of the recovered footage he discovered.  This is neat old (first decade of 1900) footage.  They were already using the medium to make things disappear and reappear.

But before we get to the video [you can skip to down below if you can't wait]  I've been thinking a lot about documentaries this week - how they're structured particularly. Most of the docs I've seen this week are narrated only by the characters in the movie.  There's no traditional omniscient voice telling us what's happening.   Saving Brinton had the benefit of a main character who is articulate, knowledgable, and infectious, and visually arresting.

John Zahs, AIFF 2017

There were other docs that weren't so lucky to have characters that could tell their stories so well, or to have stories that were easy to tell because they were pretty tangible.

And his story is tangible and compelling.  Zahs discovers all the old films - really old, first decade of 1900 - saved by the Brinton estate.  The Brintons owned movie theaters throughout the midwest.  The films were mostly very well preserved and amongst them are films thought to have been lost to the world.  The movie chronicles this.

After the showing of Saving Brinton, director Tommy Haines and  Mike Zahs did a Q&A in the dark.  But Zahs surprised the audience by showing some of the vintage films he found and restored.  Since there was something to see, I turned on my video camera.  I did ask for (and got) permission from John Zahs to put them up here.

Saving Brinton was only shown once and I'm hoping it will be available again in the Best of The Fest Sunday night. [It wasn't.]

48˚ F (9˚C) In Anchorage, December 11, 2017

It's warm outside.  It gets colder than this in LA.

I've lived in Anchorage 40 years now and a brief warm spell in winter (no, we don't wait until the solstice to declare winter) is not unprecedented.  Warm Chinook winds are known to get the temperature up to 50˚F for a day or two.  But that's usually when there are several feet of snow on the ground and it doesn't happen often or even at all in any given year.

But our temps have been playing red rover with the freezing mark since it first snowed this year - and the last few years.  Winter has been starting later and ending earlier in the last decade or more.  This is not a normal abnormality.

I've kept the driveway as snow free as possible, so it is not a sheet of ice, like our street.  I'm hoping the strong winds will evaporate as much of the wet that's melting on the ice.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

AIFF 2017: The Awards Ceremony - UPDATE: All Winners Announced (Unless They Surprise Me)

This post will be updated as winners are announced.  There may also be some other intermittent posts of people at the ceremony before the awards are announced.  As you can see, I've tried to be prepared this year and will fill these in as they are announced.  I'm not sure what order they will be in, but I suspect I have them backwards.

Animation and Made in Alaska were after Screenwriting.  Scroll down to find them.

6:45pm  They are starting with the screenwriting contest.  I've already posted about the winner Jason Mott.

Winner and three finalists  - First three are finalists.
Chad Hutson
Holly Holstein
Jason Wright
Winner:  Jason Mott

Scroll down for the animation and Made in Alaska Awards that have been announced.

GCI is announcing awards for Native content.  Next is Super Shorts.

Audience Choice Awards:  
Documentary:  Saving Brinton
Feature: What If It Works

  • American Folk * USA  
  • Drawer Boy * Canada / Mexico 
  • Painless USA * 
  • Pale Blue Dot India* 
  • What If It Works

Winner:  The Drawer Boy
2nd Place:  What If It Works
3rd Place:  American Folk

Documentary Shorts

  • Family Rewritten
  • Ghosts of The Arctic
  • He Who Dances on Wood
  • Old Harbor, New Hope
  • Perception: From Prison to Purpose
  • Ten Meter Tower
  • The Collection
  • Wildland
Winner:  Ten Meter Tower - 
2nd Place:  He Who Dances On Wood - Jessica Besher  AND  Unwelcome - Ida Theresa Myklebost
3rd Place:  $30 to Antarctica - Joey Chu

Feature-Length Documentaries 
  • AlphaGo USA
  • Among Wolves USA
  • The Last Animals USA
  • Over the River Italy
  • Saving Brinton  USA
Winner:  The Last Animals
2nd Place:  AlphaGo 
3rd Place:  Tie:  Among Wolves/ Saving Brinton

  • Game (USA) (15m)
  • Whoever Was Using This Bed (USA) 20m
  • Iron (USA) (17m)
  • Must Kill Karl (Canada) (12m)
  • The Robbery
  • Temporary (USA) (12m)

Winner:  Game - Jeannie Donahoe
2nd Place:  Whoever Was Using This Bed
3rd Place:  Temporary - Milena Govich

Super Shorts
  • 8 AM
  • Brain Storm
  • Couples Night
  • Cold Storage
Winner:  The Robbery - Jim Cummings
2nd Place:  Brain Storm - Christophe Clin
3rd Place:  Cold Storage - Thomas Freundlich

  • Afterwork
  • Bakiro
  • Cagare
  • Genesis
  • Happy End
  • Light Sight
  • Navajo Tales
  • RIPrivacy
  • South Forest
  • The Realm of Deepest Knowing
  • Twice Upon a Time
  • Undiscovered
Winner:  Bakiro
Runner Up: Happy End
Honorable Mention:  Navajo Tales


  • Conspiracy Pie
  • Dead Run
  • Keep Talking
  • Proper Binge
  • Shaawatke’e’s Birth
Winner:   Keep Talking
2nd Place:  Conspiracy Pie
3rd Place:  Dead Run - Shane Taylor

AIFF 2017: Awards Ceremony has begun

Rebecca Pottebaum, the director of the Anchorage International Film Festival thanking everyone whose made the festival work.

It's dark in here and I'm rushing to get this up, so I didn't lighten it before posting.  But here's the audience.

And here's Noah and his crew from the short doc Perception:  From Prison to Purpose.   Going to switch to awards post.

AIFF 2017: Caught By Surprise By Wonderful Film - Arctic Daughter

Jean Aspen after the showing
I didn't know anything about Arctic Daughter except that it was about a woman who had lived in log cabins above the Arctic Circle inAlaska.  And it was the only thing showing today at noon, and I'd seen the shorts being shown at 12:30pm.

Tom Irons, Aspen's husband, post showing
I was caught up in a film that was beautiful in so many ways.  The visuals were beautiful - even the Ken Burns affect enough for me to notice it.  I wasn't conscious of the music but for a few times when the original piano score was perfect for the shot.  Then it faded back into the background of my consciousness.  I'm starting to have some trouble with hearing all the dialogue at this festival, but not in this film.  And the story is the great Alaska story of going out into the wilderness, building a cabin by hand, and surviving well through the winter.  But it's not a macho conquering nature movie, but a thoughtful reflection on the place of humans in nature.
Composer Lindianne Sarno
though a lot of it was made up of old photographs, it didn't feel like it was.  And they didn't use

It's a beautiful and inspiring film that I hope is seen by all Alaskans, and by all citizens of the U.S. and the world.  It's about the meaning of life, our relationship to nature, about change and human strength and fragility.  It's narrated by a beautiful woman who shares the wisdom she's gained from her experiences of life pared down to just the essentials.  But she's also lived in Arizona.  I've focused on one woman Jean Aspen, but it also involves some men - her first and second husbands and her son.

I'm not easily carried away like this by a film, but I was today.  The only quibble I might have is that toward the end it seemed to be getting a little too long, but there were two important things the film makers needed to say at the end.

This is as eloquent a statement as I've seen about our human place in the natural world.

And it turned out that this was the world premiere showing.  Even the film makers had never seen it on a large screen!  I learned that at the short Q&A right after the film was shown and then more time to talk to the film makers in the Port Room.  I was supposed to take J home and then come back and see the Best of the Shorts, but I in the end I went home and took a break to work on this post and now I'm at the Panel "From Short to Feature."

This reminds me of being surprised by another Alaska film that I saw under similar circumstances - Greg Chaney's The Empty Chair.  A really good and important film about Alaska that was getting its world premiere here at AIFF.

From the Festival description:
"D.K. Johnson, moderator, will be joined by Writer/Director Levi A. Taylor (Conspiracy P.I.E., Way Up North), Cinematographer/Gaffer April Frame (Frame by Frame Productions), Director/Editor Quinton Oliver Smith (Ruthless Rhymer, Find Me) and Director Logan Dellinger (Moose the Movie, Sudsy Slim Rides Again). Each filmmaker has taken part in both large and small-scale productions including feature films, music videos, commercials and reality television."

AIFF 2017: Last Day, Lots To See

A quick rundown of events/films:

Arctic Daughter - haven't seen it the link gets you a description.  Sounds like a video memoir of a woman who grew up in the Arctic.

Short Docs 2 has some very good films.  One of my favorites is "He Who Dances On Wood."  "Hairat" was by the same film maker and is an eerie short about a man who feeds the hyenas.  "Unwelcome' is narrated by a Syrian boy who lives as a refugee in Greece and the film maker (Ida Theresa Myklebost) has been here all week and I expect she'll be there for this showing.  "Family Rewritten" is about a teen in foster care and is 'in competition.'  I have video of Myklebost and Family director Yasmin Mistry here.  Bear in the Bedroom is an unexpected (by me, of course)  film that lets us into another person's life as he sees it.

Keep Talking was shown first at the museum the day before the festival officially began.  It's an interesting doc about the attempts to revive the Alutiiq language in Kodiak.

Best of the Fest Shorts - They haven't said which ones will be in this program.  This will probably be a sneak preview of the award winners in this category.   My favorite short was Game  But there were a bunch of good ones:  8 A.M., Toby, Cold Storage, 7 Beds, Yochi, and The Geneva Convention to name a few.

Aerial Films - "best aerial films from around the globe" Based on Alaska Aerial Media's website, we're talking drones here.

My comments continue below the schedule.

Sunday, December 10









Shorts to Features is a panel discussion.  Getting to hear film makers talk about their craft  always gives me lots to think about.

Awards Ceremony - I plan to blog live as they announce the winners.  Should be sometime around 6:30 - 7:00 pm but I'll just keep updating posts and give you a heads up.  Better yet, join folks at Williwaw and see it yourself.  I toyed with live-streaming on Youtube, but my first attempts today to make that happen haven't been successful.  I don't think I have time to figure it all out before 7pm tomorrow.

Best of the Fest - They'll be showing some of the top films, including audience choice awards.  But they only have three slots - so we'll see Best Feature winner, Best Doc winner, and an audience favorite, either a doc or a feature.

The winners should be announced by 7pm - 730pm.  You can check my blog, the AIFF website, or come down to the Williwaw (601 F Street - The old Coventnat House Building) around 7:30 and then pick your theater.

If you haven't seen any films yet this year - I'd recommend the best of the fest shorts at 2:30 in the AK Experience Theater.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

AIFF 2017: Lots of Films - Saturday Suggestions

There's way too much for me to cover today.  Click on the colored bars for more description of the films and the locations.

Family Films is free and it's animated films.  It's kid friendly, but not just for kids.  I might go see that program.  It's at Loussac.

Check It was the Gay-la documentary.

The Music in Film panel is for film makers, but people interested in film might want to go too.
"Join special guest, Liz Storm, and other industry professionals to discuss music licensing for film, copyrights, and distribution royalties."
Pale Blue Dot is a great Indian film.  I posted a homework assignment for it last week, but after watching it, you don't need to know the Hindu legend before hand.  But you might want to read about it afterward.
I did a second Pale Blue Dot post just now with video capturing people's reaction as they came out of the theater after seeing the movie last week.

More comments below the schedule.

Saturday, December 9












Between Earth and Sky is a documentary about climate change featuring Alaska.

Over the River is an Italian documentary about the town of Caselle in Pittare,, and how the young are leaving and the old oral traditions are dying.  

Life Hack was an interesting feature about two people whose lives are disrupted when people hack their phone and computer.  

I'll go see Animation 2 - though at Animation 1 last night computer problems marred the program and we didn't really get to see a couple of films, at least not the way we should have.  This one is also in the E Street Theater so I hope they change computers or whatever it is they need to do.  It was my first time in the theater and it's a good venue - if the films show right.  

AlphaGo is a riveting documentary about a human (the best go player in the world) playing against a new computer program (AlphaGo).  It follows the model of sporting event documentaries as we see the preparation (of the AlphaGo team anyway, not of the Korean champion) and then get nail biting coverage of each game.  It was well done.  A strong contender for best documentary.

What If It Works? is a fun feature.  The synopsis sounds a little strange, but it worked well due in part to strong actors playing interesting characters.  He's OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and she's got multiple personalities.  It takes place in Australia.  

Shorts on the Edge  is the same program as opening night.  

As I'm writing this I'm realizing that I've seen a lot of films this week with two full days left.  
A warning for Sunday evening.  I've live blogged the Awards Galas for the last couple of years.  I might even try to set up a live YouTube feed this year.  Though I've never done that before and I'm not sure I can pull it off between now and then.  But look out for the announcements.