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Bear 71

This screening took place on
Monday, February 4, 2013 at 8:45pm
Yukon Arts Centre

In Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, various wild animals are implanted with a GPS receiver and a chip, and from that moment they’re known as numbers: Deer 48, Fox 21, Bear 71. The park rangers know exactly where they are every moment of every day, and they film their daily comings and goings using the security cameras they set up all over the park. Web documentary Bear 71 lets us watch over their shoulders, to a disturbing effect. Director Leanne Allison’s husband, a Banff park ranger, gave her thousands of hours of grainy surveillance footage from the park, from which she and digital documentary pioneer Jeremy Mendes focus in on a three-year-old grizzly: Bear 71. In voice-over, Mia Kirshner explains how the animals are being pushed ever further into the mountains by advancing freeways, train tracks and tourism. The immense amounts of data and surveillance material allow the audience to follow the proceedings in the park on an interactive map. Humans rule this territory, but remotely, from behind their monitors. The website’s visitors, likewise watching a screen, are forced to share the perspective of the guard/voyeur.

Bear 71 is a unique and powerful way of telling the story of a bear under the influence of human technology, using that same technology as the medium. By adding viewers as markers on the map alongside the video feeds from animals and fellow visitors to the site, Bear 71 allows its audience to watch surveillance of fellow participants while at the same time being subject to surveillance. The pervasiveness of observation throughout the story helps to bring the viewer deeper into the story, nurturing a deeper sympathy and connection with the wild’s wired animals.

The theatrical screening version is presented live by co-director, Jeremy Mendes with cello accompaniment by Heather McIntosh. The performance is followed by a 30-minute artist demonstration of the interactive elements of the website. Q&A to follow the screening.

  • Directed by Leanne Allison + Jeremy Mendes
  • 2011, Alberta/ British Columbia
  • 60 minutes

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