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Naknek high schoolers compete at Anchorage International Film Festival

NN Cannery History Project

In their film, “Cannery Art,” Kaeli Pulice and Ashylnn Young explore the music, graffiti and poetry of processors at the NN Cannery in South Naknek.

Two Naknek high schoolers are in Anchorage this weekend to screen their film in the Anchorage International Film Festival youth competition.

Kaeli Pulice and Ashlynn Young created their film “Cannery Art” during a NN Cannery History Project digital storytelling workshop this fall.

The three-minute film begins with archival footage of cannery workers walking to work on a sunny Bristol Bay summer day. Pulice and Young spoke to historians and former cannery workers about the art that tied these lives together, from graffiti and architecture to poetry and music.

“Most of that crew came from along the Yukon River, and they did drumming and dancing,” recalled Becky Savo, a former fisherwoman interviewed in the film, “Then the Italians were there, and they sang opera...People always sang in the cannery because it was so boring…It has its romantic element, even though it’s really hard work.”

During the two-week workshop, Bristol Bay School District high school students created 17 short films that documented stories associated with the 128-year-old NN Cannery in South Naknek. The workshop and these films reflect an enormous community effort to preserve history. Pulice and Young began their film with a word of thanks.

“We were drawn to this topic because we both have a love of art, and enjoy learning about the history where we live. We are honored that we have this opportunity to learn about the past of such a large part of our community. And we thank the interviewees for lending us their time so we can create this project.”

For the director the NN Cannery History Project, Katherine Ringsmuth, these films are both a way of documenting the broad-reaching history of cannery life in South Naknek and of connecting local youth to that heritage.

“Hopefully what we’re doing is providing the students with a voice that they are really a part of this history. They’re not just observers of it. We want to connect them to their past, especially the people who took care of these canneries, so they feel like their job is to become the caretakers of these places’ history.”

The competition, Afterschool Special Weekend Edition, will be held Saturday afternoon. The competition is hosted in partnership by the Alaska Teen Media Institute and Anchorage International Film Festival.

Contact the author at or 907-842-2200.