Reel to (sky) reel: Alaska Airlines offers unique & diverse independent films onboard

Like many events this year, film festivals have been canceled due to COVID-19. But that’s not stopping us from sharing award-winning film makers’ bold, fresh stories onboard Alaska Airlines flights.

Starting Sept. 1, we’re showcasing films on board that celebrate a wide range of diverse stories from leading West Coast and Hawaii film festivals, such as the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, CAAMFest (Center for Asian American Media), Frameline LGBT Film Festival, Maui Film Festival, American Indian Film Festival and the Superfest Disability Film Festival.

While this year’s festivals—and flying— certainly look different, we’re excited to partner with independent film festivals to amplify more diverse and bold stories,” said Derrick Cunningham, manager of Alaska’s inflight entertainment & connectivity.

The selections include films from emerging and professional filmmakers, including animated shorts, live-action shorts, documentaries, feature-length films.

Here’s a look at some of the titles joining Alaska Beyond Entertainment on Sept. 1:

Were You Gay In High School? (Frameline Film Festival)

Synopsis: “Were You Gay In High School?” is the story of two queer, Asian American women who share their awkward, closeted stories from high school. Hannah and Kelly open up about their uncomfortable, coming-of-age moments as closeted teens and find commonalities in their stories while learning about the people they used to be. They reminisce about the boyfriends they didn’t like kissing and the straight-girls who were definitely flirting with them. Told through live action and animation, the stories shared are both cringeworthy and silly; painful and hilarious.

“As a Seattle native, I couldn’t be more excited to have our film WERE YOU GAY IN HIGH SCHOOL? shared on Alaska Airlines with passengers from all over the world. As a queer, Asian American filmmaker, I am so grateful for this opportunity to share our stories on this platform. I hope viewers will enjoy and maybe even reminisce about their own high school experiences while enjoying Alaska Airlines’ Signature Fruit and Cheese Platter–my personal favorite.” – Niki Ang, co-writer and director  

Niki Ang, Co-writer, Director
Karen Du, Co-writer, Cinematographer
Andrew Ahn, Producer

Frameline Completion Fund grant winner
Inside Out RE:Focus Fund grant winner

Festival Location:
San Francisco

Flood (Frameline Film Festival)

Synopsis: A queer teenage boy takes his younger sister on an adventure wearing face paint and glitter on her tenth birthday. These colorful bandits move through their environments experiencing small joys while turning a blind eye to reality. It isn’t until their celebration is interrupted that the cost of their freedom is exposed.

As a filmmaker displaying the beauty and tribulation of queerness colliding with culture, I aim to unapologetically display the human condition. I am proud to have Flood be available on Alaska Airlines to exhibit the intricacies of how queer characters and stories are more than what we have seen in the past. I hope Flood will help create sociopolitical change by presenting audiences with the similarity that constitutes each of us as humans, regardless of race or orientation. At its core, Flood shows the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love most.” – Joseph Amenta, director/writer

Joseph Amenta, Director, Writer
Daniel Sedore, Producer
Nikolay Michaylov, Director of Photography
Orlee Buium, Editor

Festival Location:
San Francisco

Your Name Isn’t English (American Indian Film Festival

Synopsis: As ride-share drivers struggle to pronounce her name, a Native American woman gives history lessons from the backseat.

As an Alaska Airlines frequent flyer, it is a great honor to be a part of the American Indian Film Festival’s Alaska Beyond Inflight entertainment programming which is bringing Indigenous films to flights across the country.” – Tazbah Rose Chavez, director

Tazbah Rose Chavez, director (Citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, from the Nüümü, Diné and San Carlos Apache Tribes)

Best Live Film, American Indian Film Festival
Best Director, SkinsFest

Festival Location:
San Francisco

Two Brothers (American Indian Film Festival)

Synopsis: As the Seminole Wars comes to an end, a pair of brothers contemplate their next journey as they look over their homeland for the very last time.

Montana Cypress, director

$10,000 Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award – 2019 Miami International Film Festival.
Best Live Short, American Indian Film Festival 2019
Best Short Film, Sunscreen Film Fest West 2019

Festival Location:
San Francisco

Sweetheart Dancers (American Indian Film Festival)

Synopsis: “Sweetheart Dancers” is about a Two-Spirit couple determined to rewrite the rules, through their participation in a Native American pow wow competition.

I am forever a strong advocate for the social justice of documentary films. Through the lens of our Indigenous filmmakers our love, culture, and modern-day struggles become a true reflection of American society. My passion for filmmaking is rooted in my early years, growing up with the American Indian Film Festival each fall. It has shaped my perception of the world we live in and inspired me to dream of creating films that I could share with curious audiences from all over the world,” said Ben-Alex Durpis, director. “Films told from the Native perspective can help outsiders unfamiliar with our culture to find parallels in their own lives, and bring us all closer to the circle of humanity. It is an honor to share this groundbreaking story through AIFF’s Alaska Beyond InFlight Entertainment programming. May the tenacious love and resilience of The ‘Sweetheart Dancers’ be an inspiration to you, always.”

Ben-Alex Durpis, director

“Grand Jury Winner- Best Short Film” Outfest LA 2019
Grand Jury Winner-Best Short Film & Audience Award- “Out On Film”
Atlanta Lgbtq Film 2019
Best Short Film- Lumbee Film Festival 2019
Railroad Pass- Best Nevada Film- Dam Short Film Festival 2019
Golden Space Needle Award- Best Short Film-Runner Up-Seattle International Film Festival 2019
American Indian Film Festival- Nominated- Best Short Documentary 2019
Oregon Documentary Film Festival-Nominated- Best Cinematography 2019

Festival Location:
San Francisco

DIVE BAR (Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival)

Synopsis: Leena, a washed out nightclub singer grieving the death of her husband, visits a dive bar almost daily to relive the memory of how they first met. Meanwhile, Leena’s teenage daughter Simone struggles with the responsibility of having to take care of her neglectful mother, but finds solace in the close relationship she develops with Tasha, the bar owner who acts as her surrogate mother. Trapped in a world of grief over her husband and envy over the relationship between Simone and Tasha, Leena finally receives a special visit by someone she has been longing to see.

It’s such an honor to have DIVE BAR as part of Alaska’s Inflight Entertainment! As a kid, I always thought it was so cool to be able to watch films on the plane, and to have my own film be accessible for people to enjoy in the air is something I couldn’t have imagined. Thanks for the opportunity to allow independent filmmakers like me to share our stories!” – Dorothy Xiao, writer/director/producer

Dorothy Xiao, Writer/Director/Producer
Lailanie Gadia, Producer
Daphne Wu, Director of Photography
Faroukh Virani, Editor

Festival Location:
Los Angeles

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings (CAAMFest)

Synopsis: Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings is a compelling portrait of an inspiring and inventive musician whose virtuoso skills on the ukulele have transformed all previous notions of the instrument’s potential.

We are thrilled to partner with Alaska Airlines and have this new, exciting platform for new Asian American cinema. All of these films were hits at our annual festival and so excited for you to watch them.” – Masashi Niwano, Festival Director

Tadashi Nakamura, Director

Gotham Independent Film Audience Award
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Best Documentary Audience Award & Best Editor
Ashland Independent Film Festival Best Documentary Audience Award
DocuWest Film Festival Best Medium Length Film

Festival Location:
San Francisco

John Van Hamersveld CRAZY WORLD AIN’T IT (Maui Film Festival)

Synopsis: A colorful glimpse into John Van Hamersveld’s seminal art career, viewed through the eyes of many artists and innovators he has influenced.

Dave Tourjé, Director/Producer
Chris Sibley, Director/Producer

2019 Maui Film Festival Audience Award 

Festival Location:

The Invalid Corps (Superfest Festival)

Synopsis: Everyone thinks they know the story of the Civil War – Four years of America’s bloodiest history. Over 600,000 men killed and more than 40,000 men with amputated limbs and even more with other injuries and illnesses. What no one ever asked is “What happened to those disabled men afterwards?”

Disability frequently appears in mainstream films, even increasing the chances that actors involved will win Oscars, but people with disabilities have repeatedly pushed back to explain that these stories don’t actually speak to the real life experiences of disability. Superfest Disability Film Festival provides a breath by showing films made by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. To have Alaska Airlines helping bring these films to their passengers marks the progress being made to provide better representation in film of disability.” – Emily Smith Beitiks, associate director of the Longmore Institute on Disability, and Superfest Coordinator

Day Al-Mohamed, Director/Writer
Julia Myers Neill, Producer

American Presidents Film and Literary Festival Best Short Film

Festival Location:
San Francisco

Bastion (Superfest Festival)

Synopsis: Just before closing time, a completely bald man walks into a barber shop. Reflections in the window and an irritating fringe have told him that it’s time for a haircut.

Ray Jacobs, Director/Producer

Superfest Juror’s Choice award
Meeting Rimini Film Festival Best Film
International Breaking Down Barriers Film Festival Best Male Actor (James Doolan)
Oska Bright Film Festival Best Story award
SuperFest Best in the Fest award
Canned Film Festival Grand Prix Du Jury award
Canadian Diversity Film Festival Best UK film award
Handifilm de Rabat Best Screenplay award
CinqueTerre Film Festival Best Narrative Short award

Festival Location:
San Francisco