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Children of the Dig Screens at the Maryland International Film Festival

April 5, 2019

by Joshua A. Branstetter

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“What now?”

This last weekend I had the honor of attending the esteemed Maryland International Film Festival, the largest film festival in the state, and bringing our documentary, Children of the Dig, with me.

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The historical Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown, MD. Photo by Ken Roe

Across three days, over 150 movies transform downtown Hagerstown, MD (Population: 40,000) into a bustling art hub. Feature-length films, shorts, animated, foreign, and documentaries from across the world play at the 104-year-old, 1300-seat, neoclassical Maryland Theatre and other venues throughout downtown Hagerstown. It’s an impressive, lively festival, and an opportunity to share the story of Quinhagak with the people of Maryland and the DC area.

 

A huge crowd had gathered for the red-carpet premiere. Like kernels in a popcorn machine, it was overflowing, and alive. Journalists from the Maryland-DC area, the governor and city council, and filmmakers from France to (of course) Alaska were on display. Snapping selfies. Camera flashes. I did my best to introduce myself to anyone I could stop for a second, but my real sights were set on anyone with a mic and camera. Thankfully, I found one.

Here for my interview.” I said, with a smirk.

Are you a filmmaker?”

Yes.”

I’m sorry. We just wrapped.

I paused. Her mic was off. Her cameraman gone. She was ready to leave.

Ah! That’s too bad, because if you had interviewed me, I would’ve told you I was from Alaska, and all about the 60,000, 500-year-old Yupik artifacts discovered in Quinhagak, Alaska.” I offered my hand. “Josh Branstetter.

I had her at Alaska.

 

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The red-carpet premiere at the Maryland International Film Festival

 

I think it’s easy to get caught in the bubble of Alaska. I see climate change affecting our shores, our industry, our seasons. I hear people buzzing about artifacts and carvings all the time. It’s easy for me to forget that our big, little state is a world away, and most people don’t know what’s happening up here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.

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Children of the Dig director Joshua A. Branstetter addresses questions during a Q&A panel

“Just so you know, this movie has a lot of Yupik in it.” I said to the small crowd that had arrived for our screening of Children of the Dig.

Crickets. Looks of confusion. Looks of “Is that a… thing?” among a couple attendants.

“It’s a native Alaskan language.”

A collective, “Ahhh…” spread throughout the crowd.

“You’ll see. Just- …just watch.”

 

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Filmmakers at the Maryland Theatre

I don’t watch the screen anymore. I like to watch the faces I can make out under the glow of the projector. When I can. What did I make out this time? Well, for one thing, those masks are pretty eye-catching, and while I admit my comedic tastes can be a little quirky, the line “There was this Santa Claus looking guy.” Never fails to play. Nice work, Mike. You’re a star.

Picture6All of the public screenings we’ve conducted thus far, have concluded with a Q&A, and that’s so important for Children of the Dig, because we want people to ask questions, to want more info, and if myself, or someone from the team can be there to meet that need, it makes a difference. Our crowd in Hagerstown was no different, and the question I heard most, at the screenings, at the after parties, all around the Maryland International Film Festival, 4,000 miles away from Quinhagak, AK was…

“What now?”

I think the world is ready to find out.

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