Ten years ago when visiting New York City, a colleague suggested we invite to dinner a NYU film student from Barrow. This month, that “starving student” will have his feature film, the first to be shot in Inupiaq, screened at Sundance. Rasmuson Foundation is matching donations this week to help get the two Barrow-based actors to one of the biggest film festivals on the planet.

As it happens, it’s a New Yorker who arranged for me to meet Andrew MacLean from Barrow, Alaska.

Joan Shigekawa was, at that time in 2002, the media program director at the Rockefeller Foundation. She had recently come to Alaska on a philanthropy tour where, in Barrow, she met Edna MacLean, the first president of Ilisagvik College. (I knew Edna through her service on the Alaska Public Radio Network’s board when I was the organization’s president in the late 80’s.)

Upon meeting Joan, a New Yorker, Edna spoke about her son who was attending film school at NYU in Greenwich Village. Months later, I was meeting Joan for dinner in Manhattan. She thought we should invite the film student from Barrow to join us. I think what she actually said was “starving film student”…and we did.

He was instantly likable. Andrew spent much of the night chatting with my mother, a New Yorker, who had also joined us at the midtown Korean restaurant. His career began to soar soon after. The Princess Grace Award. A United States Artists Fellowship.

And now? A big announcement: his feature length film, On the Ice, has been accepted for premiere at the Sundance Festival in January in the drama category. The story: On the snow-covered Arctic tundra, at the top of the world in Barrow, Alaska, two teenage boys try to get away with murder. This is a huge honor for Andrew and Alaska. This film, and the short on which it is based, are the first films produced totally in Inupiaq.

If you would like to help Andrew bring the North Slope actors featured in the film to Sundance in Park City, Utah, you can make a tax-deductible donation via United States Artists Project Site. Your donation will be matched by the Rasmuson Foundation. Click here to see an excerpt, hear from Andrew himself, learn about the film, and consider participating.

Currently, Andrew has raised $6,500 of the $10,000 he needs. He has one week left to raise the rest.

Andrew has created this blog to keep everyone up to date on news about the film.