One With the Whale
One With the Whale
One With the Whale
One With the Whale
One With the Whale

One With the Whale

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    • Directed by: Jim Wickens, Peter Chelkowski
    • Released: 2024 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2023
Running Time: 80 min
Language: English, 
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Indigenous Studies, Environmental Issues

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.

In Gambell, Chris is one of the few 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 harvest a whale, the village is ecstatic. He is providing a heroic service and continuing an important cultural and spiritual legacy. 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, online bullying and centuries of racially motivated attacks from outsiders, the Apassingoks and their entire village are desperately trying to hold on to their culture and traditions. To survive, they will need to find a way to navigate these precarious times and strike a balance between their Indigenous Lifeways and being modern Americans.

Official Selection at 2023 DOCNYC
"One with the Whale is a gripping, unapologetic observation of the way the Yupik tribe survives despite several harmful influences, past and present, from the world around them. The film itself takes no obvious stance on any presented issues. Rather, it acts as a record, a visualization of the unknown story, and offers information only to form our own personal judgements."
— Film Matters


About the filmmaker 


Jim Wickens is a leading storyteller on the frontline of environmental conflicts. His work has screened on Channel 4 News, Animal Planet, CNN, and ITV. His uncompromising style has earned him numerous awards, including the RTS Independent Filmmaker of the Year and the Wincott Foundation Award for Journalism. This is his first feature documentary.


Pete Chelkowski is a producer and director of long- and short-form content. His debut feature film was Carnival Roots and his other works include Life Below Zero: First Alaskans, Who Runs the World, Ocean Warriors, Fighting Tuna, and I Learn America. He regularly works undercover for Ecostorm, an environmental detective agency. 


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