By Mike Leung
Grizzly: Face to Face opens with dramatic footage of a grizzly splashing through a northern British Columbian tidal flat in pursuit of a salmon. The salmon’s fin, barely visible through the top of the water, skitters away at a frantic pace that the 500 pound animal somehow manages to follow. Several strides later, outstretched paws claim the meal. The bright red colour of flesh is soon visible as the mother skillfully tears the fish apart.
Despite this dramatic scene, Grizzly’s husband and wife producer team Jeff and Sue Turner say the film was meant to portray the grizzly in a light most nature films fail to capture. The film also depicts the bears in social, parenting and hunting situations.
"We need to downplay the aggressive aspect of grizzlies," Sue explains. "The danger of these animals is blown completely out of proportion. Our film shows the bear the way Jeff and I see the bear–as an easygoing animal."
For most Calgarians, seeing or experiencing grizzly bears in the wild is a rare experience. Jeff spent the last 15 years living in the bears’ midst with his family at his Princeton, B.C. home. Because most of us rarely experience bears in the wild, most of us harbour misconceptions toward the grizzly. More often than not, media portrayals of the majestic and peaceful animal are stories of attacks. These only feed misconceptions.
"There’s a lot of cultural myth about the bear," he says. "We’ve seen and experienced the bears differently than most people have."
"Bears are individuals–when you start to see the bears as individuals you see exactly what they are," adds Sue. "We wanted to demonstrate they are individuals and not just a species."
During production of the film, the Turners explain that their approach to filming the bears employs mutual respect for the animals.
"Grizzlies have a great ability to read a threat," explains Sue, adding they never carried any defensive weapons like bear spray or firearms. "I’m sure they know–they would treat a threatening human much differently than they would a non-threatening human."
The Turners also believe that the approach to park protection we employ in Canada is appropriate, but they caution that the boundaries of parks don’t always apply to ecological systems.
"If we’re going to live with bears, we have to increase our tolerance with them," says Sue. "We live in their areas. If we could realize the potential of these animals, we might think of them a lot differently."
Grizzly: Face to Face is an impressive film on all accounts, especially given the fact the film portrays the grizzlies in a way rarely seen on the small screen.