Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Expectations have already been surpassed for Jeff Harasimowicz, who is hoping his award-winning film gets seen by as many people as possible.
Harasimowicz is the director of Alaskan Nets, a documentary about a boys’ high school basketball squad from a small reserve in Alaska that captured a state championship.
The Metlakatla Chiefs won their state title in 2018, their first in 34 years and only the second one in school history.
Thanks to a partnership with Alaska Airlines, Harasimowicz is now offering the 117-minute movie for free viewing from January through the end of March to Indigenous schools and communities throughout Canada and the United States, as well as any others groups interested in the film.
Alaskan Nets will then have a North American theatrical run starting in April.
“It was born out of the whole COVID situation,” Harasimowicz said of his idea to offer free community viewings of his film, which has some Hollywood backing behind it as actor Chris Pratt is an executive producer.
“Most people had distribution options put on hold or postponed indefinitely.”
Harasimowicz is keen to get his film out.
Alaskan Nets was shown at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which concluded this past April in California. The movie won the Audience Award at that festival.
Harasimonicz said about 650 schools, the majority of them in the United States, had already signed up for a free viewing as of Wednesday.
“Only a handful of those are in Canada,” he said. “We haven’t really pushed that hard yet for it in Canada.”
Those interested in hosting a movie night can do so through the link Alaskan Nets
A one-time screening will be available for each community or school. Hosts that request it will also be provided with promotional materials for their movie night.
All hosts will have the option of whether they wish to utilize their movie night as a fundraiser. If they choose to do so, hosts can sell tickets, have concession stands or related raffles.
All proceeds will then stay in the community and support the school’s athletic departments.
Harasimowicz said a streaming link will be provided for free to all those interested in watching the film. There’s also an option to purchase a Blu-ray disc for $20 to show the movie.
And there is no limit on how many people can attend each viewing.
“It’s up to them,” Harasimowicz said. “Some schools have said we’ve been hit hard by COVID and we just want to invite our basketball teams to come in and watch this privately.
“Others are inviting their community out to their football field and want to show it there. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. We’ve given schools a lot of latitude of what they want to do with it.”
One of the perks of the free movie nights is that a contest is also being held in conjunction with the festivities.
One winning school will be chosen and both the girls’ and boys’ basketball squads from that school will win trips to participate in the 2023 Alaska Airlines Classic next January.
The airline will cover the expenses to have these two teams compete in one of the state’s most prestigious high school hoops tournaments.
“They’ve been a big champion of this film since day one,” Harasimowicz said of the airline.
Those interested in requesting a movie night for their school or community have until the end of March to do so.
“My goal when I started out to do this was to get 500 schools,” said Harasimowicz, who was hoping to get viewing requests from all American states and right across Canada. “And that wasn’t based on anything.”
Since it is only the first week of January, he said he has set another goal for the number of movie night requests he’d like to see.
“Now we’re shooting for 1,000,” he said.
Since the pandemic has forced many communities, including Indigenous ones, to have lockdowns and limit gatherings, Harasimowicz said having online screenings of the film were considered.
But because of potential piracy issues it was deemed too risky to do so.
Alaskan Nets focuses on the efforts of a pair of cousins, Danny Marsden and DJ King, who led the Metlakatla Chiefs to the state basketball title.
Their school only has about 70 students. And their fishing community is one that has been hit hard from various deaths and economic challenges.
A winning basketball squad raises the hopes of the entire community.
“It’s a basketball story but much, much more,” Harasimowicz said, the ideas of hope and perseverance can be shared by any community.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.