Alaska filmmaker, son chronicle pirates, castles and food in '5th Grade Around the World'

ANCHORAGE — Most parents know how quickly childhood passes. Alaska filmmaker Mary Katzke wanted to take advantage of those waning years by going on a trip around the world with her 11-year-old son Corin.


Katzke, who heads the nonprofit film company Affinityfilms Inc., decided she and her son should make a movie of the experience. The Alaska Journal of Commerce says the film’s working title is “5th Grade Around the World.” It chronicles their adventures as they explore foreign countries, eat exotic foods and make friends around the globe.

The Katzkes, who returned home earlier this year, also blogged as they traveled.

The trip started with a flight from Alaska to Ireland in August. Through various means of transportation, the pair journeyed across the world, starting with Europe, eventually passing through Spain and south to Africa after boarding a ship in Italy.

Stops along the way included the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, China and South Africa.

Sitting with his mother at an Anchorage coffee shop, Corin reflected on cultural differences between the United States and the places they visited.

He gives the example of China, where pushing and shoving seemed to take the place of kindly waiting in line.

“When someone takes your place in line, it’s just too bad for you because you didn’t step forward six inches,” Corin said.

On the ship from Italy, guards carried large guns to stave off a possible pirate attack while traveling through particularly dangerous waters, Mary Katzke said.

Pirate drills helped passengers prepare.

“That was exciting,” she said.

Other highlights include exploring an abandoned castle in Ireland.

“We had a wonderful palette of experiences,” Mary Katzke said.

Katzke’s films always address important social issues, and “5th Grade Around the World” addresses understanding between varied world cultures.

She made the 1990 film “Sea of Oil,” which explored the ramifications of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill on the community of Valdez. Her 2009 film “About Face” follows a woman who, still reeling from the psychological and physical aftereffects of her mother having thrown her into a campfire when she was a baby, attempts to find her mother and get some long-needed answers.

Mary Katzke sold their house and many of their belongings to make the trip possible. All of their material possessions needed to fit into a storage container, and everything else had to go, Mary Katzke said.

“I’ve never been rich, but it’s always worked out,” she said.

Both feel the benefits to the trip were immense.

In addition to expanding his food palette significantly and expanding his horizons generally, Corin also became a geography whiz.

The film’s release date has not been determined. That will depend on getting the funding she needs to finish it. She’s hoping to have a rough cut by the fall.


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