Smokin' Fish premiered November 2011.
Check local listings to see when it's airing on your local PBS station.
Cory Mann is a businessman hustling to make a dollar in Juneau, Alaska. He gets hungry for smoked salmon — a favorite food from his childhood — and decides to spend a summer preparing the traditional dish of his people, the Tlingit. Smokin' Fish interweaves the unusual story of Mann's life and the untold history of the Tlingit with the process of preparing this traditional food. The documentary also chronicles Mann's struggles to pay his bills and keep his business, which focuses on mass producing and importing Tlingit artwork and wholesaling it to the tourism industry, afloat.
Members of Cory’s family, including the seven women who helped raise him, feature prominently in Smokin’ Fish. His Aunt Sally Burattin, in particular, anchors the narrative in the history and culture of an ancient civilization while Mann’s business exploits carry him helter-skelter through the 21st century, as he tries to navigate the messy zone of the modern world as it collides with traditional culture.
"For a while, I didn’t really like it. I didn’t want to be Indian. I felt like I was being punished for something I didn’t do. All I could think of was I just want to be away from it." — Cory MannLuke Griswold‐Tergis and Cory
Although born in Juneau, Cory's mother took him to live in San Diego when he was an infant, until his two aunts, unhappy with the situation, decided to bring him back to Alaska to live under the care of his extended family. Cory’s childhood was centered on life with his great grandmother, who was born and raised in a time when Tlingit culture was still dominant. She dedicated herself to smoking salmon in the traditional manner on an almost industrial scale, providing food, and a cultural connection, to a wide network of people who couldn’t prepare it on their own. As a child, Cory was terrified of Alaska, but as he became immersed in life there, he saw the beauty of how everything was alive and thriving, much different than the city of San Diego that he was used to.
"Smokin’ Fish is more than preparing traditional smoked salmon," explains Luke Griswold-Tergis, the film's producer, co-director and writer. "We see traditional food as a connection with history and with the land, as well as a pillar that supports living Indigenous culture."
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