Grizzly Man – 08/12/05
Aug 12, 2005 NYC/LA
Directed by Werner Herzog
In his mesmerizing new film GRIZZLY MAN, acclaimed director Werner Herzog explores the life and death of amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell lived unarmed among the bears for thirteen summers, and filmed his adventures in the wild during his final five seasons. In October 2003, Treadwell's remains, along with those of his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were discovered near their campsite in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve. They had been mauled and devoured by a grizzly, the first known victims of a bear attack in the park. (The bear suspected of the killings was later shot by park officials.) In GRIZZLY MAN, Herzog plumbs not only the mystery of wild nature, but also the mystery of human nature as he chronicles Treadwell's final years in the wilderness. Herzog uses Treadwell's own startling documentary footage to paint a nuanced portrait of a complex and compelling figure while exploring larger questions about the uneasy relationship between man and nature.
Founder of the organization Grizzly People, Treadwell devoted his life to the preservation of bears, co-authored a book with Jewel Palovak, Among Grizzlies, and educated thousands of schoolchildren about bears. Treadwell also used his charisma and growing celebrity to spread the grizzly gospel, appearing on television shows including The Late Show with David Letterman, downplaying the dangers of his encounters.
But was Timothy Treadwell a passionate and fearless environmentalist who devoted his life to living peacefully among Alaskan grizzly bears in order to save them? Or was he a deluded misanthrope whose reckless actions resulted in his own death, as well as those of his girlfriend and one of the bears he swore to protect?
Not everyone believed in Treadwell's unorthodox research. Some locals said that by living among the grizzlies he was crossing a line that had been respected by native Alaskans for thousands of years. Wildlife experts expressed concerns that by taking away the bears' natural fear of humans - and portraying the animals as cuddly companions - he was doing them more harm than good. And while one of the ostensible reasons for his Alaska trips was to protect grizzlies from poachers, park officials contended that poaching was never a serious threat to the thousands of grizzlies living in the Kodiak archipelago.
Adding more fuel to the controversy is the fact that aspects of Treadwell's life remained shrouded in mystery until his death. He lied about his background even to his close friends, claiming to be Australian when in fact he was from a middle-class family in suburban New York. He had a history of serious drug and alcohol problems and had had several run-ins with the law before devoting his life to bears, which he credited with turning his life around.
At the heart of GRIZZLY MAN is the spectacular footage of enormous grizzlies hunting, playing and fighting just feet from Treadwell and his camera. Treadwell shot these scenes over his last five visits to the Alaskan wilderness, apparently with the intention of creating a wildlife documentary. Even more fascinating are the times Treadwell turns the camera on himself, alternately testifying to his almost religious love for the grizzlies and revealing less exalted, all too human emotions, including vanity, rage, paranoia and loneliness.
To provide perspective on his subject, Herzog interviews Treadwell's friends, family and colleagues as well as environmentalists and wildlife experts, whose opinions about Treadwell vary as widely as Alaska's extreme landscape.
R, for language
1 hour, 43 minutes
Lions Gate Films
Education/General Interest, Death, Documentary, Theatrical Release, Nature, Bears, Alaska, Wildlife, Meditation, Nature