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One With the Whale

  • Showtimes: Fri, Feb 9th @ 9:50 AM & Sat, Feb 10th @ 4:50 PM

  • Runtime: 01:20:00

  • Directed By: Pete Chelkowski, Jim Wickens

  • Rating: GA

  • Genre: Indigenous, Drama, environmental, racism, rebirth, survival, lgbtq+

Sponsored By:

Sponsored by the Ely Folk School as part of our Indigenous Students Day Program. The Friday morning screening will be followed by a catered meal for the students held at the Ely Senior Center.

The Saturday evening screening will be preceded by a Happy Hour at the Ely Folk School across the street, 4-5PM.


The Apassingoks are a typical American family. They watch the NBA, have a dog named Blue, and are often glued to social media. They live on St. Lawrence, a tiny Alaskan island in the Bering Sea, with their son Chris, a shy teenager. But, unlike mainland kids, he must regularly cut school and head out in -20°F into the deadly waters to provide food for his family and his village. Because on this island, if you don’t hunt you die.

Chris is one of the last subsistence hunters of his generation, an ancient practice of providing food for the entire community, but a way of life which is becoming infinitely more difficult due to climate change. So, when Chris becomes the youngest person to ever harpoon a whale, the village is ecstatic. His proud mother posts photos of the hunt on social media to share with other Alaska Native communities. But, to their horror, instead of praise, this vulnerable kid receives thousands of hate messages and death threats from Paul Watson and his international army of environmental activists.

Emotionally distraught and struggling to graduate high school, Chris falls into a dangerous tailspin and looks to his family, especially his older sister Nalu, for help to counter these attacks. But Nalu faces her own challenges, she is secretly gay and must leave the island and its restrictive religious morality to find love and happiness.

ONE WITH THE WHALE unravels the multiple challenges that Chris, Nalu, and their family face. Caught in the crosshairs of climate change, food security, social media and centuries of racially motivated attacks from outsiders, the Apassingoks and their entire village are on the cusp of losing everything. That is, unless they can find a way to navigate these precarious times and strike a balance between being modern Americans and prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

Director Bios:

Jim Wickens, Director/Cinematographer
Over the last 15 years, Jim has established himself as one of the world’s leading activists and storytellers on the frontline of environmental conflicts. After working for Greenpeace, he started the world’s first undercover environmental detective agency. He has outstanding warrants in Japan for his anti-whaling work there, and criminal convictions in Namibia for exposing commercial seal hunts. At the same time, Jim also works closely with indigenous and coastal communities around the world fighting for recognition and land rights. His work has been regularly screened on Channel 4 news, Animal Planet, CNN and ITV. His raw and uncompromising style of storytelling has earned him numerous awards, including the Royal Television Society Independent Filmmaker of the Year; the International Foreign Press Award; the Wincott Foundation Award for Journalism; Amnesty International and One World media awards.

Pete Chelkowski, Director/Cinematographer
Pete Chelkowski’s latest project, “Life Below Zero-First Alaskans,” airs on Nat Geo, the only non-fiction series with an all Native American cast. He was commissioned by TNT to shoot “Who Runs the World” for Sara Jessica Parker. He was a field producer and DP for Discovery’s “Ocean Warriors,” where he met co-director Jim Wickens. His first feature film was “Carnival Roots” which explored the clash between Europe and Africa through the lens of Carnival in Trinidad. He produced and created “Fighting Tuna” for Discovery. He was a producer of “I Learn America,” a documentary film about newly arrived immigrant teenagers in their senior year of high school. He regularly works undercover for Ecostorm.