Heartland, Banff, SF American Indian, Anchorage
Champion dogsled racer George Attla passes on his knowledge to his grandnephew.
With a career spanning 1958-2011, indigenous Alaskan George Attla was a legendary dog musher, winning nearly 20 championships before retiring. Director Catharine Axley follows Attla in his twilight years, after the champion began a youth program in his rural home town, the village of Huslia, continuing the indigenous tradition of dog mushing. In addition to relating his underdog story – childhood tuberculosis led to a disconnect with his family, culture, and language, in addition to serious physical limitations – the film chronicles Attla’s mentorship of his 20-year-old grandnephew, Joe Bifelt. While this intergenerational training helps liven up the more standard biographical elements, the project could have benefited from expanding beyond its television length to become more compelling.