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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Grizzly Man



2005 was a successful year for documentaries. Some of the docus were: "My Date With Drew," "March of the Penguins," and "Grizzly Man." I strongly encourage anyone to watch these movies. There is something intrinsically wholesome and uplifting about watching docus. They point us toward the everyday, to real life, and to the world around us. They fix our eyes on what is ordinary, they fix our eyes on one another. And in doing so, the stillness of these real moments becomes vibrant.

Last weekend Dwayne and I watched "Grizzly Man," a documentary about the life and death of amateur grizzly expert and wildlife preservationist, Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell spent 13 summers, unarmed, among grizzlies and ultimately was mauled to death by a bear. I thought, when the story began that it would be about the life work of Treadwell, and about a man who had saved wild grizzlies. Instead, I found a story about a troubled man, who was so conflicted he could only find peace among grizzlies, away from the civilized world. And in a very meaningful twist "Grizzly Man" became about Treadwell's inner journey to find rest, to find purpose, to find Home.

The impact Treadwell made for grizzlies in the greater scheme of things is debatable, but his story touched an inner chord for me. I saw a man who wanted so desperately to live for something greater than himself. He gave himself completely to the grizzlies; he wanted to become one. He acted like them, he "befriended" them, he nosed his way into every part of their lives. And in so doing, broke many federal laws as well as an ancient Alaskan boundary between humans and grizzlies.

One Native Alaskan, a curator and PhD, spoke to the camera frankly about Treadwell while trying to be tactful, "Where I grew up the bears avoided us and we avoided them. They're not habituated to us...If I look at it from my culture, Timothy Treadwell crossed a boundary that we have lived with for 7000 years."

I guess, to sum it up, I thought the documentary would make Treadwell a hero, but instead it made him human. This was a man I understood. This was a story I have felt. Don't we all want to give ourselves away? Treadwell wanted his life to be about more than his drinking problem, and the grizzlies saved him. "Thank you for being my friend," he would say over and over to the bears while touching their noses and cooing to them. "I love you."

"What," I ask myself, "do I want my life to be about? What am I escaping?"

The filmmaker made a startling and profound observation toward the end of the film, which I will not disclose here because I want you to watch it. Let's just say, it smacks of things universal, of things religious, of things deep and quiet.

----

Watch it and tell me what you think.

6 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

Beautiful film. Great review.

The most intriguing part for me were the interviews with his friends. They revealed the kind of person he was as much as he did.

New Documentaries to look out for:

*Darwin's Nightmare
*Why We Fight
*Neil Young: Heart of Gold
*Unknown White Male
*The Real Dirt on Farmer John

1:09 AM  
Anonymous tin said...

Josh thanks for these tips! I'm doing my senior lecture this June on the similarities btw. docus and creative nonfiction. They use almost all the same literary devices and this fascinates me - one through visual language and one through written language. I'll look these docus up. Might use them for my class.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review Tin. I'll have to watch the film. I've avoided it thus far mainly because I didn't know what the point would be.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

You beat me to it! Mark and I just watched this and I was going to blog on it. Well said...it was so interesting to see his deep desire to be someone...to do something no one else could do and thus find significance. Thanks for the review.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love documentaries also. Funny I came across your blog - I just watched the movie 3 days ago and it is still with me for some reason. Your review really put into words what I was thinking as I watched it.

Other great documentaries that I recommend all available on Netflix,etc:
-Best Boy
-Jupiter's Wife
-Keep the River on Your Right-A Modern Cannibal Tale
-Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

-Why We Fight (still showing)

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched this film last night. It was not what I expected. I admire his passion and dedication even though I question the purity of his motives. It appeared to me that it was the one avenue that could satisfy his thirst for fame and recognition.

Still, having lived in remote Alaska and seeing these great bears up close myself, I respect what he did accomplish. His footage is amazing.

His commentary was bizarre and his perspective anthropomorphic. It was facinating to see him struggle with the his beliefs and the reality of nature.

Herzog did an excellent job creating this film. I'm not aware of a film representation that reflects someone's humanity better.

"Animals Rule" -Tim Treadwell.

10:30 AM  

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