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New Frontier 2012 - Bear 71
by Karen Pecota

The philosophy to expand cinema culture continues with the 2012 program of the New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival. Ten media installations, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and the moving image, will showcase at the festival's New Frontier venue located At The Yard. The director for the New Frontier 2012 concept and a Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer, Shari Frilot, describes this year's installation showcase entitled “Future Normal” meaning each work somehow connects to and explores an integration of humanity and media technology. Each installation has their own unique vibe to entice the audience allowing specific works of art to come alive with the use of film in order to tell a story. Frilot says, "Stories have organized the way we understand the world." We cannot avoid the voice of electronic media today and its influence in the world; therefore, we must embrace the creativity it holds for storytelling.

A fan of the New Frontier Program, founder and president of the Sundance Institute Robert Redford remarked at the press preview reception that opened the 2012 New Frontier, At The Yard, Installation program. "In many ways, New Frontier represents the next generation of artistic expression," said Robert Redford, Founder and President of Sundance Institute. Taking a moment to ponder, he adds, “I am fascinated by its ability to both keep pace with and drive innovations in technology. Our hope is that its exploration of the critical issues of our time inspires people to consider what storytelling might look and feel like decades from now, and that they continue that line of thinking well beyond their time at the Festival."

A story to organize the way we understand the world is represented by the installation “Bear71.” The project was co-created by artists Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison, produced by Loc Dac, Dana Dansereau, Bonnie Thompson and Rob McLaughlin at the National Film Board of Canada. It is described as a “multi-user interactive experience.”

“Bear71” is a project that combines an animal tracking system in an interactive web documentary. The film is a short auditory film, 20-minutes in length, about Bear71-- the story of a female grizzly bear told in the first person. The documentary is co- created by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes, and written by J.B. MacKinnohe.   Documentary filmmaker Allison had access to over one million photos of Bear71 taken over a period of eleven years of observation. Renowned Canadian actress, Mia Kirshner provides the endearing performance as the voice of Bear71 to share an unusual story collaborating with humans since being collared at the age of three and watched her whole life via trail cameras in Banff National Park.

The reason it is classified as an interactive experience is that the research project and the short film of “Bear71” encourages the audience to interact with the film. You will best understand the theory when you go to the link below. You will be shown how to enter the Banff National Forest as a person or an animal and travel around the Banff forest via a moving graph charting a variety of locations of animal travel.

Tracking Bear71 may be controversial but the surveillance brings a few things to light. To follow Bear71 the film audience encounters an attachment to the animal and its habitat. The animal whereabouts can be followed and documented. But, on the flipside it can be observed that the world of Bear71 is being invaded by humans. Yikes! Does this disturb her feeling of home?  The national park rangers are able to understand to a greater extent the issues that surround the wild life they protect. The documentary visualizes from the information used by the surveillance cameras that there are several problems in the Banff forest. One issue is the rapidly growing infiltration of humans into the park that destroys the animal’s natural habitat. Another is that large amounts of grain from the trains and trucks traveling through the park leak food source on the rails and roads. If the animals do not have enough places to get their food source naturally then they are drawn to areas where normally they would not be seen. The attracted areas are just as dangerous for the animals as it is for humans. If we can learn from stories like “Bear71,” will we be able to organize the way we understand the world?

"Sometimes, it's hard to tell where the wired world ends & the wild one begins." Hmm! Think about it!