tuskerman videos


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Making of Spirit Bear #3: The Old Girl

When I finally got round to fine-tuning the narrative for our documentary, it was vital that we had a semblance of a "cast" - characters on whose lives we could eavesdrop if only for a fleeting moment in time, and tell their stories, from their point of view.

Well that was the plan anyway. And after our first season of filming and hardly any bears on the ground, I was beginning to wonder if this plan was as straightforward as it had seemed initially.
But then the wilderness intervened as She usually does, and this year, out of the undergrowth stepped the Old Girl.

She is called "One Eye" in the documentary, for obvious reasons, and she was as wizened and beaten-up and bedraggled as an old sloth bear could get. Calloused and besieged by skin ailments, many would call her ugly and not give her even a second glance. But we fell in love with her, and she repaid our attentions by remaining in "our patch" of the forest for an entire week.

So for seven days we were given a glimpse into the life of a bear in her twilight years. Film-makers are often warned against the temptation to portray an animal's life or behaviour using a palette of human emotions - but how could we not be affected by the discomfort she displayed while walking on a badly injured paw, or the almost hopeless look of desperation that swept across her eyes when faced with the prospect of having to climb a tree despite her aching arthritic joints.

You could read that bear like a book. The fear of wandering into a younger bear's territory, or being ambushed by another. The seemingly hopeless search for food, and the fatigue that she obviously felt after hours spent stumbling under a sweltering sky.

So with the visuals we came back with, her story slowly unfolded - I didn't have to tell the Old Girl's story - she told it herself. And when at last she disappeared into the bush for the final time, we felt like we were saying goodbye (and good luck) to a friend, whom we knew we would never see again.


Kuba said...

It really is hard to prevent "human" emotion from coming through when depicting animals. Last time I checked animals feel anger, show signs of sadness and even love, though it is certainly not as complex as we make it for ourselves. If she can tell her own story (as you said she did), you would not need to intervene. I do not imagine you really had to.

I am looking forward to seeing this whenever I can.

Gobbles said...

I can't wait to watch your documentary about Sloth bears, I see it's on youtube so I'm going to watch it right now. I have only discovered these beautiful creatures on the internet several days ago but now it has inspired me to travel to where I can see one in real life.