Passionate Alaskan filmmaker speaks at APW luncheon
by Marilyn Blumer
Lights! Camera! Action! Alaska filmmaker Mary Katzke was the guest speaker for the Alaska Press Women luncheon, held June 3 at the Golden Lion Hotel. She spoke with enthusiasm and great reverence for her craft and the subjects in the films she creates. Katzke is a graduate of the University of Texas and founded Affinityfilms in Alaska in 1983. She left Alaska to obtain her master’s degree in filmmaking from New York University. After completing this degree, she returned to Alaska in 2001. Lucky for us, Katzke has chosen the Last Frontier to be her base camp where she films mostly documentaries.
Many of her films have appeared on PBS including her very first film, “No Word for Rape,” on the (once) hidden subject of rape in Alaska. To name a few others, she has also written and directed: “Beyond Flowers,” a personal story of facing and triumphing over breast cancer; “Sea of Oil,” about the Exxon-Valdez oil spill and the devastating effects on the community of Valdez; “Wings of Recovery,” about mental illness and “Crescendo,” which deals with domestic violence. Her films either explore previously taboo topics, or edify, educate, or encourage the viewer” or accomplish all of the above. No matter what her work may originally set out to accomplish, they all come from her heart. They are gifts on celluloid wrapped in images, music, light and thought.
Asked by a member in the audience if she ever has a difficult time finding actors for her films, she replied: “In New York that was never a problem.” When she was a student at NYU and creating many student films, people would line up around the block to appear in a film for free.
Katzke was eight years old when the filmmaking bug first bit her. She and her dad, an engineer, would film family gatherings on an 8 mm Bell & Howell. After documenting a 4-H project, she was hooked. The rest, as they say, is her story.