Kamchatka Bears: Life Begins (2018) ****

November 25th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Irina Zhuravleva, Vladislav Grishin | Writers: Dmitry and Igor Shpilenok | 52′ Doc, USSR

South Kamchatka Federal Sanctuary is often called bear paradise. This magnificent wild countryside lies on a peninsular to the far east of Russia on the Northern Pacific seabord. And this is where Irina Zhuravleva and Vladislav Grishin took their cameras to film the early years of life for a brown bear family.

Only the ambient sounds of the wild can be heard in this desolate but spectacular northern region where the newborn cubs’ early months play out. In this instance, the mother stayed with her cubs for three years, but often they have a much shorter time together. The directors seek out innovative camera angles, aerial shots and time lapse photography in their attempt to reveal the lives of their impressive animals and their exotic habitat . From flighting for territory and foraging for wild salmon in the lakes, to hunkering down in the closeness of their pack while foxes, and rabbits watch respectfully from a distance.

This is a far cry from Werner Herzog’s 2005 bear chronicle Grizzly Man that followed the tragic life of bear activist Timothy Treadwell and Arnie Huguenard who were killed by bears they had ‘befriended’ on the other side of the ocean in Alaska. Here the directors make no contact with the furry mammals, although their intimate close-ups certainly offer us a feeling of being apart of the wild bear pack through the spring, summer and the first snows of autumn.

Seven months in the making the extraordinary story unfolds as a meditative experience free of any commentary, bookended only by a brief introduction and epilogue accompanied by delicately drawn animations and an informative inter-titles outlining the tragic facts about bear survival. Pavel Doreuli studio’s sombre sound design accompanies this final act explaining that the main threat to Kamchatka’s wildlife is the change of habitat due to mining, construction of hydroelectric stations near the spawning streams and gas pipelines, a hazard of modern life and growing populations. The film very much connects with the narrative of disappearing animal communities all over the world. MT


Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia