A narrative feature filmmaker and third generation Italian American, Gina Abatemarco has a passion for compelling storytelling and advancing women in the film industry.
After graduating with a BFA from Tisch School of the Arts’ Film & TV Program, Abatemarco was moved by a sensational article in the LA Times reporting on the island of Kivalina, Alaska. The fast eroding village is in danger of being engulfed by the sea. Abatemarco, unfamiliar with this community, was alarmed by the possible loss of generations of traditions. Five months later, she flew to the island.
Fundraising for the film has been challenging for Abatemarco. Taking advantage of grants and applying multiple times paid off for the team. Over the five years that she has been working on funding the film, Gina has been uncovering funding sources along the way. “A lot of love, a lot sweat, and a lot of tears have gone into making this film. One of my fundraising strategies was to never give up,” said Abatemarco.
Abatemarco made a sobering and realistic discovery in the fundraising process of her film that helped her reach acceptance. “Although there are some sensational and compelling qualities to the story, there are also a million reasons to ignore it―a million reasons for these stories not to get their due or be released.” Through partnerships, she has been able to hone in on the content and benefit from collaboration.
The most exciting part of this experience for Abatemarco has been immersing herself in the community of Kivalina along with cinematographer Zoe White. Now in post-production, she is looking forward to sifting through all of the footage and being able to share this story and her experience with the PBS audience.
“This is the opportunity to release the film…this is really the moment when the stories from the Arctic need to come forth. The entire region is in jeopardy. The culture is in jeopardy. It will be a tragedy if Kivalina and the people’s way of life cannot continue,” said Abatemarco.
One of the greatest challenges for the project has been working on the film for over five years and finding time and resources. But, the most challenging part of this project has been carrying the story with her for so long. “Yes, the external parts of making the film has been difficult…once you know the Arctic and experience, it’s something you will never forget. You suddenly become really, really responsible as a filmmaker…” said Abatemarco.
Abatemarco looks forward to taking The Kivalina People to Fusion Film Festival, a festival to celebrate female filmmakers and their collaboration. Over the years, she has continued to be a mentor to students at NYU running the festival. Continuing to inspire women to tell their stories, be fearless and have strength to build relationships is one of her passions.
According to Abatemarco, Indigenous communities are not being seriously included in the conversation. As a result of the Arctic drilling, Abatemarco is discouraged. Fall ice is now forming in the Arctic which means Kivalina has about nine months to make a decision on how resources should be used. Indigenous communities, and all communities, need to be considered in the next steps for the Arctic.
Abatemarco’s team is now planning on raising completion funding for The Kivalina People through a Kickstarter campaign to bring the film to completion.
Written by Georgiana Lee.