"Grizzly Man" on Discovery Channel at DVinfo.net

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Old February 5th, 2006, 01:16 AM   #1
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"Grizzly Man" on Discovery Channel

Discovery Channel is showing a unique sort of video movie this week, about Tim Treadwell, who spent 13 years living among Grizzlies in Alaska. Werner Herzog produced the movie, mostly from Treadwell's videotapes and he provided some narration. Jim Bini did the arduous job of editing it. During his last 5 years, from 1998 to 2003, Treadwell shot over 100 hours of video footage. He is seen with a Sony camcorder in his hands several times. Although it looks like a VX2000, a Hi-8 cassette is shown that supposedly came from it. It might be a VX3, but it doesn't look quite the right size. Perhaps someone else can ID it. In regards to cassettes, I once saw an
XL1 being used by an actor in an episode of "Law & Order". When the cassette from it was handed to one of the cops, it was VHS. They probably thought most of the audience wouldn't recognize a little DV cassette and showed one with which they'd be familiar.

As you watch the movie unfold, you realize that Treadwell is a more complex character than you may have assumed at first. His extended anti-Parks Service segment leaves no doubt about his sentiments towards that agency. However, it's mentioned that he cooperated with them on a regular basis.

After seeing this, I believe there's hope for jerky, hand-held video, when the content is as substantial. There's no way that anyone could duplicate these shots, not that anyone would want to even try. He often had the camera in one hand and was holding off a 1,200-lb. bear with the other. I'm not about to seek out photo-ops that have this degree of risk. The final footage was audio only, since he didn't have time to remove the lens cap.

Last edited by J. Stephen McDonald; February 5th, 2006 at 03:11 AM.
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Old February 5th, 2006, 09:31 AM   #2
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My wife and I just happened to turn to this showing last night as well.

Apparently at least for a portion of the time, he used two cameras. The one that we saw him holding (shot by the other camera, of course), looked like a Sony VX1000, but it was difficult to tell. There is a scene where Herzog is listening to the audio from the final tape in the presence of the former girlfriend, and as he hands the tape case to her, it looked like a miniDV case to me. It is possible that in 1998 he started with a Hi8 camera and then added a miniDV camera. I'd probably have to watch it again to see if I could pick up clues as to what format various portions were shot in. Or perhaps some of those involved in the film might log in here and tell us directly!?

I can foresee this movie being a lightning rod for heated discussions (dare I say flame wars?); people are simply going to have quite varied opinions. I'll be brave/foolhardy and start it off with my personal observations and opinions -- but with a reminder ahead of time to everyone to NOT flame each other's opinions. If you have an opinion not previously expressed, feel free to politely state it, but do NOT flame others for their opinions. DVinfo POLICY will must be observed at all times.

My opinion, FWIW? I saw the film as being somewhat biased toward defense of Tim's behavior. In so doing, it too lightly touched on his deep, dark troubles, and missed the real tragedy of his life: that he suffered a common and treatable, but severe and dangerous mental illness. Even before an interviewee in the film (briefly and superficially) mentioned that he needed medication that he wouldn't take to even out the "highs and the lows," I was already pretty confident he had untreated bipolar disorder (yes, I'm a practicing physician...I do hope to have one or more of my psychiatrist colleagues watch the film and see what they make of it. For now, if you're interested: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/bipolar.cfm).

And in missing the point that Tim's loved ones and the society around him could not help him step off the path toward self destruction that his illness blazed, Tim was actually correct -- insofar as two wrongs occasionally do make a right -- the desperate old bear that killed and ate him and his girlfriend isn't to blame for making them part of his food chain, his death was really the outcome of our society's inability to adequately address mental illness. He could have done more to help the already-protected bears by taking many other less reckless paths. Perhaps a whole 'nother film is waiting to be made about how his life could have taken a more productive, less destructive path "if only..."

But this film missed that whole harsh human reality in the process of leaning toward an apologist take on Tim's unbalanced perception of his place in nature.

A caveat: for the morbid amongst us, the tape (audio only) of the fatal attack is NOT played in the movie, and Herzog said it never will be released. So no need to tune in for that.
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Old February 5th, 2006, 03:56 PM   #3
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Hi,
saw this yesterday (its on cinema release in the Uk). My opinion? Herzog provides a very balanced view of the subject, certainly not always presenting Treadwell in a positive light, often in fact he criticises his methods and his simplistic view of his kinship with wild animals. I'm glad he chose not to include the "death tape" in the film (as some lesser documentary makers would have done). On a technical level, its interesting seeing very shaky handheld DV/Hi8 footage on the big screen, some of it held up surprisingly well, some of it was surprisingly beautiful even with the limitations of the formats - it shows yet again that it is the content, not the format, which attracts or distracts audiences.
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Old February 5th, 2006, 04:13 PM   #4
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I rented this movie about a month ago and found it to be much better then i suspected. I liked how the director left most of his personal opinions out of the film, so the audience could make their own based on the information given. the audio tape at the end would be interesting to hear, but they pretty much explained it so you get the jiff. I thought the movie was funny more so then dramatic, from the interviews to tim. (especially the helicopter pilot and tim trying to pet the bears). Im not sure if any of that was intentional, But there are a lot of really good characters in this movie, especially Tim, and it is worth seeing.
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Old February 5th, 2006, 06:58 PM   #5
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It's difficult to say how many of Tim's personality quirks might be put on, for the sake of future viewers. He and others rightly predicted that the footage would eventually be seen by a large number of people. You might think that over 100 hours of candid self-photography, would reveal a lot about yourself, even if you tried to avoid doing that. However, you might watch this 10 times and come up with enough examples of his behavior to illustrate several opposing diagnoses. Suppose you could see all 100 hours of his raw footage? Imagine what a field day analysts would have with all that material. I have about 500 hours of my own camera recordings and I've got a bad habit of talking too much to the camera. Not that anyone would ever bother to watch them, but I'd hate to think what kind of a posthumous persona might be created for me from them. How much of Tim's footage would he ever have released to others, if he hadn't died? Would we have seen his outtakes and heard his self-conscious ramblings? How would the final edit of his documentary have differed, if he'd been the one to make it? Herzog does a fine job of trying to figure how Tim would have wanted it done and several of his friends said that they thought he would have liked the result. But, we'll never know for sure and in any case, we got to know only one version of him. And of course, even if he'd lived and edited it himself, we'd still only see just one version.

Insights about him could come from things such as, every one of his shirts and jackets contained a comb and mirror. When a friendly fox stole his precious baseball cap and made it disappear down a burrow, he was beside himself with frustration. Despite appearing very grungy, he obviously felt that even this sort of "look" required his constant attention. His vitriolic attack on the U.S. Parks Service seemed at odds with the fact that he was involved in many activities in conjunction with them. They had the option of banning him from the area, at any time. He likely didn't intend for those segments to be seen, until after he had finished what he had planned.

There are many critics about the value of what he was doing, in regards to the welfare of the bears. An interesting fact was stated that there were no known illegal kills of Grizzlies in the area, all through his 13 years there. During the first year after his death, 6 bear kills by poachers occurred.
Ultimately, there will be greatly increased attention to these bears and the plight of large predators in general, because of his work and video record.
I'm hoping that a flood of curious folks, packing camcorders, doesn't descend on the area.

Regarding his camcorders, I also saw and studied that cassette case Herzog handed to his previous girlfriend, that contained the final audio segment. I pulled out two Sony cassettes, one Hi-8 and one DV, that I bought in 2004. By holding them up and getting a comparitive perspective, I believe it was Hi-8 and not DV. The red markings look similar on the two formats, but that one seemed way too big for DV and had the different length/width ratio of Hi-8.
We're going to have to hear from someone with direct knowledge of his equipment to settle this, as the cassette we saw might have been a prop, rather than the actual one with the recording. It seems likely he used both Hi-8 and DV between '98 and '03. He had still cameras before that and perhaps we'll eventually get to see some of the thousands of photos he took.

Don't be surprised if a dramatized movie, using his story, appears in the future. Who would be the best pick of an actor to play him? Maybe Drew Barrymore could carry a female version of him, given how much license screenwriters have to re-structure things for maximum audience appeal.
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Old February 6th, 2006, 12:00 AM   #6
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Was there really a need to downsample to 24p? Why not present at 60i?
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Old February 6th, 2006, 08:30 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Stephen McDonald
that one seemed way too big for DV and had the different length/width ratio of Hi-8.
Perhaps it was a full-size DV cassette and not Mini-DV? Only the filmmakers know for sure, I guess.
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Old February 6th, 2006, 09:32 AM   #8
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I haven't seen it yet, I just recently heard about it when I stumbled across an article about Tim Tredwell. The way the story read along, he was a bear activist who lived with the bears, and loved them. Just in the first few sentances, I could tell he had died, and felt fairly sure it was because of a bear that didn't return that love. I was surprised he had a girlfriend, and dragged her with him on this adventure.

On the lighter side, one documentary I am looking forward to seeing, is Project Grizzly- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117395/
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Old February 6th, 2006, 09:36 AM   #9
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"Project Grizzly" is totally awesome. Do a search on the guy Troy Hurtibise and it will lead you into the mind of a uh .. er .. truly unique individual.
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Old February 6th, 2006, 11:50 AM   #10
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All I had to do, was read the back of the cover and I was sold on it. I'll rent it when I get Doom tomorrow ;)
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Old February 6th, 2006, 12:04 PM   #11
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Just so I am clear. I am not calling Troy crazy.

In fact, I think he is a true CANADIAN HERO and should have an Order of Canada medal. Maybe even ten of them.

Unlike Treadwell, Hurtibise would do BATTLE against nature's fury. If he wanted to pet a bear, he would first put one in a HEADLOCK. But hopefully after drinking a six pack of beer.
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Old February 8th, 2006, 01:09 AM   #12
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I rented this movie a week ago. Wow. Amazing and scary. I agree that Treadwell seemed to have "personal issues" that might have been remedied with counseling/treatment. But a lot of the footage he captured is extraordinary. The fight between the two bears is chilling.

The best part of the rental, though, was the feature on the making of the soundtrack. Awesome. They improvised the whole musical score in the recording studio. They'd try a couple of riffs, and start jammin' away. If anyone is interested in film soundtracks, this is extremely fascinating. I couldn't recommend it more. Well worth renting the film just for that documentary.
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Old February 8th, 2006, 01:24 AM   #13
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Okay I'm sold. I will rent this as soon as I have time to watch it.
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Old February 8th, 2006, 03:18 AM   #14
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I held off watching this for a while. I felt it would be political in nature but was surprised to see a well put together video. I have hunted Griz for 5 years now with a bow and until last year I never carried a gun. I feel for the girl more than the fella cause of her following a ego infested fruitcake. No one should die in this fashion. He had a great idea but just went about it in the wrong way. Several people die from bear attacks here every year and most of the time not only the people pay but the bear also dies because it is labeled as a nuicense bear. He (the bear) was just in his living room and someone intruded. We would do the same thing.... I agree that there is way to many animals killed by poachers and other ignorant humans but the bears are well protected in the area he was in. I feel if his cause was heart felt he would have been somewhere else and not in a reserve!!! I really think this hurt the people that have a real heart felt cause. Not all enviromentalist are wacked out like this. If they were there wouldn't be to many of them. My condolences to his family and his true friends....
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