“Anchorage Is” provides a colorful portrait of Anchorage’s 100 years as a city

Over the past few weeks “Anchorage Is” has been playing weekend after weekend at The Bear Tooth Theatrepub. It was originally scheduled for just three showings, but played a total of eleven. The film was a part of the Municipality of Anchorage’s Centennial Celebration. According to the Anchorage Centennial website, “’Anchorage Is’… tells the story of Anchorage from its start as a ‘tent city’ in 1915 to the modern town we call home today.”
“I’ve seen it 10 times now,” said Mayor Dan Sullivan, last Saturday. The last showing was on Sunday. He used the words emotional, inspired, and informed to describe his response to the film.
Todd Hardesty and John Larson as one of the legacy projects to celebrate Anchorage’s hundredth year being a city produced “Anchorage Is”.
“Well we started planning the Centennial Celebration several years ago,” said Sullivan. Some of the other legacy projects that he mentioned was the book “Anchorage Stories: A Centennial History” by Charles Wohlforth, and the opportunity for locals to record their personal stories and photos on the centennial website.
“September 2013 was when I started doing research for it, even though I didn’t have a contract yet,” said Hardesty. He has been making documentaries for almost 30 years. His favorite part of this film was the “photo researching.” You could see his curiosity in the people and his hard work in identifying specific locations and events from the photos in his film introduction. Before each showing of the film, he flipped through a slideshow of old photos.
Most of Hardesty’s documentaries have been for tourists and outsiders to take home and see what Alaska is all about. “Anchorage Is” is different because it is specifically for locals to take home and celebrate.
“It’s also a legacy so that in another hundred years… they’ll have a snapshot” of Anchorage, said Hardesty.
When asked about his involvement in the film, Sullivan said, “The involvement was really getting the initial funding,” for the Anchorage Centennial as a whole, “which we did both through city appropriation and the Rasmuson Foundation.”
Hardesty said it was great that they, “were free to make choices. Nothing was requested and nothing was suggested.” The hardest part was editing the film down. “We got it to 88 minutes, and we had to make a show that was 60,” he said.
One piece of Anchorage’s history that obviously could not be left out, was the great 64’ earthquake. The producers managed to provide some comedic relief for such a dramatic event; the film mentioned that many kids were watching the cartoon Fireball XL5. This is because TV stations were limited back then. During the interview Hardesty asked Sullivan, “Were you watching Fireball XL5?”
“I was, yeah I was on crutches. I’d broken my leg skiing, so I’m standing in the doorway of our house trying to stay afloat!” said Sullivan.
The film told Anchorage’s story very well. It tied the past and present together smoothly and was entertaining throughout. After the showing many compliments filled the air. Audience members could be heard saying, “This is my second time seeing it; will there be more shows?”
“So far, I think that Todd and the work that he and John Larson did with this movie is clearly most significant event that we’ve had so far,” said Sullivan. “It amazed all of us at how good it is.” There are more Anchorage Centennial events going on that you can find online at anchoragecentennial.org. You can also buy the movie there online, or stay tuned to see if they decide to do another round of showings at the Beartooth.
“If it was your 100th birthday, you’d wanna celebrate and blow out some candles and this is the city blowing out the candle,” said Hardesty.