Arctic Tale

  • 2007-09-19
  • Talis Archdeacon

DO NOT FEED: This polar bear documentary makes the mistake of trying to pass off the wild predators as human.

The documentary "Arctic Tale" attempts to put a human face to wildlife in the Arctic. It works toward raising awareness of the impact global warming is having on sensitive icebound habitats. While the idea is a noble one, bad music and goofy commentating serve to both dampen the message and make the experience less enjoyable as a whole.
The movie draws on film footage that Robertson and husband/cinematographer Adam Ravetch took over the course of 15 years in the Arctic 's though only the last four years were spent seriously promoting the idea of making a movie. The vast amount of footage allows the movie to follow the same animals from birth through parenthood.

Narrated by Queen Latifa, "Artic Tale" follows the life cycle of two animals living in the frigid north. It highlights the added struggles that northern creatures goes through as they are forced to deal with rising temperatures.
Nanu is a newborn female polar bear. The movie opens with her venturing out of her birth cave and into the world for the first time. Her early life is filled with images of the young polar bears frolicking through the snow on a balmy -20 degree day in the Arctic.
As she learns how to survive in the north, images of the mother bear teaching her cubs how to hunt for seal slowly reveal the difficulties facing the bear family when warmer temperatures change their environment. By excessively anthropomorphizing the animals, the director tries to create touching scenes as Nanu is forced to deal with starvation and eventually leaving her mother's side.

The film simultaneously follows the life of a walrus, appropriately named "Seela." The film uses the walrus' story to give a glimpse into the life of the entire herd as it moves between slowly disappearing icebergs.
The two main characters only meet once in the film, in a scene where Seela jumps off a cliff in order to avoid a close encounter with the hungry Nanu.
Unfortunately, the film is almost ruined by poor narration and music. The narration tries too hard to humanize the characters, at times leading to awkward and childish comparisons. The music makes the whole message behind the movie seem cheesy and shallow.

The only saving grace of the documentary lies in its brilliant cinematography. Beautiful shots of a dying landscape almost make it worth going to see, but not quite. 

Now showing in Latvia. Opens in Lithuania Oct. 5.

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