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New film 'We Breathe Again' tackles issue of suicide in Alaska

Alaska Dispatch

Suicide is a tough topic in Alaska. Too many of the state's young people, including members of the state's Native communities, consider killing themselves. Some will have failed attempts to end their lives. Too many will succeed. Increasingly, Alaskans are starting to talk about it, to bring the despair out from its quiet, pained darkness and into the light. “We Breathe Again,” a film dedicated to the topic, aims to be a part of the solution. Indian Country Today has an interview this week with the film's creative team, explaining the film's mission.

The story opens with this description of one of the film's character's: “A man talks about his suicide attempt. 'I wanted to hunt. I wanted to put food aside, but I couldn’t do it without a vehicle and gas money.' He began drinking and finally turned a gun on himself. The last thing he remembers saying to his family before the gun went off was, 'By god, I love you all.'”

The film's subjects openly share their hopelessness and healing. “Listening to them has been such a privilege. ‘We Breathe Again’ is about serious issues, but it’s also uplifting — a healing journey. Whatever our characters have been through, they’re all living healthy lives now, so that hasn’t been hard to do,” director and cinematographer Marsh Chamberlain told Indian Country Today.

It turns out, Chamberlain has a family connection to Alaska and the Arctic, and through them became aware of the state's staggering suicide rates, something he and a cousin decided to tackle.

Before long, Alaska's Evon Peter came on board as executive producer, and a Kickstarter.com fundraising push produced about $20,000 from some 300 donors.

A man named Keggulluk, whom Indian Country describes both as an on-screen character and a youth mentor, described suicide for the publication as “a powerful undercurrent that can draw a person under at any moment” – an ever-present force on individuals and entire communities.

The film is scheduled for release in 2014. Read more here and here.