Saturday Morning Documentary: Polar Bear, Spy On the Ice

20 03 2011

I’m sure I don’t have to explain what a polar bear is: vicious white bears who kill seals!  Also, the cubs are adorable.  According to yet another BBC produced documentary called Polar Bear, Spy on the Ice polar bears have not been captured on film very much in the wild and a lot of their behaviour is still not completely known.  Scientists have built a variety of different spy cameras ranging from “Snowball cam,” a spherical camera that is “almost indestructible”, “iceberg cam,” which is exactly as it sounds — a camera mounted on a small, fake iceberg to follow the bears in the water or on icebergs at sea, and my favourite one, “blizzard cam,” a camera propelled by two propellers on a set of skis that allow the entire camera to travel to 40 miles per hour.  Pretty darn cool.

On the islands of Svalbard in Norway, these cameras — no humans — are placed, waiting for the bears to come out of hibernation as they make their way onto the drifting sea ice in search of food during the upcoming summer.  The bears have to hurry though; once the ice melts away, the distance will be too far to swim to the icebergs and bears that don’t make it on the ice will be stranded on land where food is harder to come by.  The documentary follows two families of bears: a mother with a cub and another mother with two cubs.  One of them gets left on the island while the other makes it onto the icebergs.

What the documentary finds is the bears being extremely curious to the cameras, showing remarkable intelligence, and showing the differences between the two polar bear families and survival strategies.  Nonetheless, there are lots and lots of the obligatory shots of super cute polar bear cubs.  And in HD, the entire documentary looks fantastic.

Blizzard cam

Mother and her cub, stranded on Svalbard

Saturday Morning Documentary: BBC Natural World: The Dolphins of Shark Bay

29 01 2011

Yet another episode of Natural World, this is about a family of Bottlenose dolphins living in a bay in northern Aussieland.  Puck, mother of already 8 children, is pregnant again with what will probably be her last.  She and her baby face dangers in the quiet waters though, because of, as you may have guessed, sharks.  Tiger sharks come to the waters for a few months during the year to feast on dolphin young and dewgongs (all I could think about when they were talking about dewgongs was the Pokemon…).  Samu, the baby dolphin, then faces challenges like adapting to the water, breathing, hunting, and the possibility of getting separated from his mother.

I don’t really have much else to say about this episode other than that it was another well-made, well-filmed, high def. work from the BBC.  And dolphins!  Yay!  What’s not to love about them?

Samu on top, and Puck

Saturday Morning Documentary: BBC’s Natural World: The Monkey-Eating Eagle of the Orinoco

16 01 2011

With the strings of success the BBC had with Planet Earth and Life, I guess it was only natural (pun intended) that they produce more series on wildlife.  The first episode of Natural World was last year about the Himalayas, which was actually pretty interesting.  It was narrated by David Attenborough, the same guy who narrated both Life and Planet Earth and I assumed he was narrating Natural World as well.

Don’t be mislead by the awesome title of this one.  Yes, there is such a thing as a monkey-eating bird but there is no actual footage of any killing of its prey. Instead, the hour-long episode follows a baby Harpy eagle living in the jungles of South America as it grows up.  There is footage of the parents bringing back dead Capuchin monkeys to give to its young but nope, no wild goring, attacking struggle between bird and monkey.  How disappointing.

Also disappointing is the fact that Attenborough doesn’t narrate this one.  It’s done by one of the filmmakers/scientists who follows the chick and studies it,  and although he’s a decent narrator, he does kind of get borderline neurotic (“There’s rain!  But what about the chick?  Is it alive?????”).

There doesn’t seem to be much conflict/difficulty for the baby Harpy eagle to grow up.  At one point, the father doesn’t return for a few days and both the mother, who has been staying in the nest with the chick, get hungry.  But then he comes back.  All is good.  More exciting is when the team rapels up the tree to install a camera of the nest — since their view from outside the tree isn’t that great — and the birds attack the crew members.  That’s really the most attacking there is in the episode.  (SPOILER ALERT!  The crew was fine.  No one died, though that would’ve made for some good TV).

Altogether, I found myself more interested in the toucans that lived next door than the Harpies.  Maybe they were just prettier to look at.  Hmm.  Maybe I’m shallow like that.  Anyway, the Harpies, a species I knew nothing about before I saw this, seem vaguely interesting.  That’s about all I got to say.

Next time, put in some monkey-eagle action and you’ll get this viewer, and I’m sure many more, interested.


Harpy eagle in flight

Saturday Morning Documentary: Story of the Weeping Camel

5 08 2010
Story of the Weeping Camel

Story of the Weeping Camel

What a unique and interesting title, it pretty much explains the significance of the movie itself.  In a rural village in Mongolia, it’s camel birthing season (there’s a season for that?) and the herd of camels are doing their thing.  One particular camel has a difficult birth, and it takes her around 2 days to finally deliver her calf.  Perhaps it is the hard delivery, or maybe it’s because her calf is a rare white camel instead of the more common brown or tan.  Whatever the reason, the mother rejects her baby and refuses it milk.  The folks in the village do their best to try and get them to bond because if not, the calf won’t be able to get the milk it needs to survive and may die.  I won’t spoil what happens, but The Story of the Weeping Camel is an interesting look at a remote village in Asia and the different customs and culture they have.  The kids in the village also venture on camelback to the city, and the distinction between city and town and the traditional versus the modern  is interesting to note.

Done cinema verite style, there is no narrator or host to guide viewers along, which may frustrate and bore people.  The film takes a while to establish the setting and the villagers before focusing on the camel and the birth.  After watching this little film, I really wanted a baby camel.  So cute!

Mother and her calf

Mother and her calf