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Spirit of the Wind (1979)

True life story of George Attla - famous Alaskan dog sled driver. The film shows the life of Attla as a young Athabaskan trapper living in the bush in Alaska and then in a TB sanitarium in ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Pius Savage ...
George Attla
George Clutesi ...
George's Father
...
Obie
...
Moses
Rose Attla Ambrose ...
Mother
William Ambrose ...
Young George
Rudy Wiehl ...
Young Steven
Eileen Newman ...
Young Marie
Louis Ambrose ...
Young Robert
Phyllis Attla ...
Marie
Curtis Erhart ...
Robert
Ace Rollins ...
Man in truck
Charlie Peters ...
Sammy Sam, the fiddler
Lee Salisbury ...
Doctor
Melinda Matsen ...
Nurse
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Storyline

True life story of George Attla - famous Alaskan dog sled driver. The film shows the life of Attla as a young Athabaskan trapper living in the bush in Alaska and then in a TB sanitarium in town. He comes home with a fused knee too much cross cultural conflict, and goes on to find his way as a dog sled driver. Written by John Malcolm

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PG
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14 December 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Attla  »

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Remarkably authentic portrayal of mid 20th century Alaska and its people.
31 August 2004 | by (Alaska) – See all my reviews

This movie is at the top of my all-time favorite movies list for the simple fact that it has so honestly portrayed the scenery, citizens and mechanics of the middle 20th century Alaska bush. Sidestepping the traps of racism and alcoholism, its wide lens takes in, with amazing detail, the scope of both the physical country and the human struggle in an age when all that has been shown is newly threatened by petroleum greed. There is also the story of George Attla, who recovered from life-threatening tuberculosis, a fused knee because of it, and a seven-year separation in his teen years from his known world, to become debatable the world's most recognized dog mushing champion. His journey is covered from his time as a kid in his village, in his home, and helping his father on the family trap line, to his crossing the finish line to win his first North American Sled Dog Championship. And throughout each step the background, characters and landscape are filmed through the lens of reality, not the imagination of Hollywood set designers and pitch men. So real, in fact, that many Alaskans can recognize numerous credited and un-credited extras as local community members, including Bill Walley, Fairbanks' news announcer, radio station owner, and three-term mayor. And the pace of the movie matches the pace of the Alaskan bush (a term to denote anywhere outside the cosmopolitan spheres of Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Juneau; in this case Huslia, a village of sixty souls, and Tanana, a thriving metropolis of 200), which is a delightful change from the tight-wired speed of most commercial films. In exploring George's relationship with his father, his father's friend Moses Paul, and his dogs, the director, Ralph Liddle, has taken us into the heart of Alaska, its people and its land, as well as the world of early dog racing, and his portrayal of the Athabaskan characters without condescension or patronization creates a believable story regardless of race. And if you've never seen a Yukon fish wheel, you have an extra treat! I predict that in the present resurgence of documentary films, this beautiful work will make a strong comeback.


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