• BY Catharine Axley | IN Sports
    Premiered December 16, 2019

About the Film

ATTLA tells the gripping but little-known story of George Attla, a charismatic Alaska Native dogsled racer who, with one good leg and fierce determination, became a legendary sports hero in Northern communities around the world. Part dog whisperer, part canny businessman and part heartthrob, Attla rose to international fame during a unique period of history when Western education, economies, and culture penetrated the Alaskan village lifestyle and forever changed the state with the discovery of oil in the late 1960s.  MORE

ATTLA weaves George's remarkable underdog story with the final chapter of his life, as he emerges from retirement to mentor his twenty-year-old grandnephew, Joe Bifelt, who takes a break from college to train with his uncle. With their sights set on reviving proud cultural traditions, the pair embark on a journey to compete in one of the world’s largest dogsled sprint races, one that has seen a steep decline in Native competitors. 

The Filmmaker

Catharine Axley (Director) is a documentary filmmaker and editor who seeks stories of empowerment through subjects that defy expectations. Her films have played at festivals including the San Francisco International Film Festival, DOC NYC, Harlem International Film Festival, and the United Nations Association Film Festival. She was a Regional Finalist for the 2014 Student Academy Awards and an official nominee for the David L. Wolper Award at the 2015 International Documentary Association Awards. She holds an M.F.A. from Stanford University and a B.A. in History and Ethnicity, Race & Migration from Yale University. She is currently a Filmmaker-in-Residence at the University of Kentucky. 


Film Credits

Catharine Axley

Melissa Langer
Kristine Stolakis

Executive Producers
Jamie Meltzer
Sally Jo Fifer
Shirley K. Sneve
Lois Vossen

Supervising Producer
Shana Swanson

Associate Producer and Cultural Adviser
Evon Peter

Rose Ambrose
Alfred Attla
Amanda Attla
Barney Attla
Gary Attla
Joe Bifelt
Wade Rodgers
Kathy Turco
Gareth Wright
Marie Yaska

Catharine Axley

Consulting Editor and Additional Editing
Lawrence Lerew

William Ryan Fritch

Catharine Axley

Aerial Cinematography
Andrew Axley
Zak Melms

Additional Cinematography
Melissa Langer
Angela Gonzalez
David Riemer
Kristine Stolakis

Andrew Axley
Catharine Axley
Melissa Langer

Rerecording Mixer
Bijan Sharifi

Sound Effects Editors
Kirk Pearson and Bijan Sharifi

Dialogue Editor
Bijan Sharifi

Foley Artists
Bijan Sharifi and Omar Gonzalez

Sound Supervisor
Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach

Colorist and Online Editor
Robert Arnold

Sound Mix Assistance
Dan Olmsted

Adrian Baker
Phil Deloria
Delphine Red Shirt
Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins
Leonard Kamerling
Michael Smith
Noelle Stout
Samantha Grant
Steve Lindbeck
Kris Samuelson

Nilo Batle
Eva Louise Grant

Dianne Weinthal
Emma Harmon
Sophia Becker
Natalie Gonzalez
Jenai Marley Rhodes Longstaff

Sylvia Roberts

Poster Design
Caelin White

Legal Services
James Marion
Justine Jacobs

Juliet Mason

Story Consultations
Linda Davis Garkow
Pedro Kos
Jan Krawitz
Billy Luther
Adam Tobin

Archival Materials Provided by
Alaska Archives at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association
Alaska State Archives, Connie and Rev. Pat Keller Collection
AP Archive
Amanda Attla
Helen and Alfred Attla
Betzi and Lyman Woodman papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage
Doreen David
Fairbanks Newsminer
Lew Freedman
Prelinger Archives
Daphne Rippon
Ned Rozell
Helen and Forrest Shields
Marie Yaska

Special Thanks
Georgia Attla
Starr Attla-Zottola
Bob Eley
Emmanuelle Antonlin
Stacia Backensto
Nels Bangerter
Cameron Bargerstock
Rachel Barth
Peter Bell
Evan Briggs
Daniel Chávez Ontiveros
Pam Cleaver
Chris Filippone
Katherine Gorringe
Laura Green
Zulfiya Hamzaki
Huslia Tribal Council
Patty Imus
The Intertribal Friendship House of Oakland
Ribhu Kaul
Jan Krawitz
Hao Le
Reid Magdanz
Paloma Martinez
Craig Medred
Debbie Nigro
Nendy Oh
Nicole Opper
Nathan Reich
Vivian Robb
Chuck and Tracey Schaeffer
Elivia Shaw
Chris Simon
Rob Stapleton
Leona Starr
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Maxine Vehlow
Casey Weter
Mike Williams
Miranda Wright
Roxy Wright
Al Yaltin, Sr.

Fiscal Sponsor
San Francisco Film Society

Funding Provided by
Alaska Humanities Forum
Caucus Foundation
Enersen Foundation
And others. A complete list available from PBS.

Original Series Funding Provided by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Wyncote Foundation
The National Endowment for the Arts

ATTLA is a co-production of Molt Films, LLC, Independent Televisions Service (ITVS) and Vision Maker Media (VMM), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This program was produced by Molt Films, LLC which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2019 Molt Films, LLC. All rights reserved.

Did you know anything about George Attla before seeing this film? What are some of your other favorite real-life underdog stories, people in sports or elsewhere triumphing against all odds?


  • American Indian Film Festival
    Best Documentary
  • BendFilm Festival
    Best Indigenous Feature
  • Anchorage International FIlm Festival
    Made in Alaska Documentary Feature & Audience Choice Award
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Did you know anything about George Attla before seeing this film? What are some of your other favorite real-life underdog stories, people in sports or elsewhere triumphing against all odds?