A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Great Bear Rainforest: Land of the Spirit Bear is a 42-minute IMAX nature documentary that takes viewers inside the largest intact rainforest on the planet. Narrated by Ryan Reynolds, the educational film connects the dots on how an ecosystem works. Gorgeous IMAX cinematography will enchant adults, while kids will be captivated by the antics of animals like otters, humpback whales, and bears. A natural disaster puts the very rare spirit bear in mild peril, but the situation never feels upsetting or bleak. Snapshots of other rainforest creatures are woven together with stories of three First Nations youth who are continuing family traditions of propagating the life in the rainforest. No iffy content here, but there is a lot of bioscience, which might be too dry for the littlest kids.
What's the story?
GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST: LAND OF THE SPIRIT BEAR is a large-screen nature documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds. It explores a remote, undisturbed Canadian rainforest and its star occupant, the very rare spirit bear. Using immersive IMAX cinematography, the film reveals the interdependency of life, land, and waters in an ecosystem, as well as the indigenous residents who seek to preserve it.
Is it any good?
With its wondrous IMAX cinematography, this film captures the beauty and texture of nature in a way that could be a more visceral, enthralling experience than actually being there. Viewers soar over the treetops and coastline one moment, almost feeling the brisk wind and sea spray; the next, they're cozied up next to a sleeping, rapidly breathing cream-colored spirit bear, feeling sheer astonishment that such a thing actually exists. Since director Ian McAllister is the first person to capture the elusive spirit bear on screen, "Mox" gets extra attention, but she's just one particularly fascinating cog in the wheel of the rainforest ecosystem captured in Great Bear Rainforest: Land of the Spirit Bear. Mostly, the docu offers snippets of the lives of birds, marine life, and wildlife, putting the pieces together to show how all of the life supported by the rainforest is interdependent, including the native tribespeople who also reside there.
Bioscience isn't always the most exciting subject matter for kids, but McAllister keeps young viewers on the hook by weaving in interviews with the new generation of the First Nations tribe: a 12-year-old who observes bears up close, a 15-year-old who uses DNA collection to learn more about forest animals, and a 25-year-old fisherman who uses sustainable fishing practices. It's all very informative, but it's hard not to wish that Reynolds' trademark sarcasm would make a more frequent appearance -- it's all a little dry. The real letdown, though, is that the film ends with the declaration that "everyone -- everyone! -- has to pull together" to preserve the rainforest, but it doesn't explain how the audience is supposed to do that.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how an ecosystem works. How do each of the elements depend on one another? What happens if an ecosystem is depleted of one of its resources?
What were some of the different habitats in Great Bear Rainforest? What kind of things did you observe (sounds, animals, behaviors)? What's the value of observing creatures in their habitats?
What makes up a community? How does the animal community work together to survive? How does your family work together to survive?
What do you think are the challenges of filming in a desolate rainforest? Do you think the animals show up every day? What happens if a crew member gets sick? Or, as seen in the credits, a wolf runs away with the camera? How do you handle setbacks?
The film's message is that if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. What does that mean? It was also said that "If you take care of the herring, the herring will take care of you." Does that mean something different? How could you apply this philosophy to your world?
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