Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this uplifting movie about a teen activist who started "the world's largest environmental network of young people" will be of interest to activist tweens and up. Except for some language -- mostly "hell" and "friggin" -- and a car getting run off the road, the content is pretty mild. One long scene plays out like a big ad for the band The Trews as the band plays a song and then invites Simon on stage to talk about saving the spirit bear's habitat.
What's the story?
Out hiking in British Columbia, 15-year-old Simon Jackson (Mark Rendall) encounters a black bear who looks like he's about to charge. Then along comes a mysterious white bear who fights him off, leaving Simon awed and determined to learn more. He discovers it's called a spirit bear, very rare, and its home is directly in the path of a large lumber company ready to chop down its old-growth forest habitat. Simon immediately starts a "save the spirit bear" campaign trying to get heard any way he can. He learns he has to be pushy -- something that doesn't come naturally to the shy teen -- very clever, and work on his network of young supporters. There are many setbacks, however, like the logging company president who belittles him in a school debate and angry loggers who even try to run him off the road.
Is it any good?
SPIRIT BEAR is sure to speak to activists who think they're too young to make a difference. Simon's a wonderful role model for kids. On that level this true story is highly recommended.
As far as the quality of filmmaking goes, though, it could use a little spit and polish. The trying-to-be-hip peppy soundtrack cuts in and out jarringly and the storytelling jumps around some. Some characters are a bit too one-dimensional, like the politician (Pamela Sinha) and the logging company president (Ed Begley Jr.). But all in all it's still fine family entertainment that will get kids thinking about what they're passionate about.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the idea that one person can make a difference. How did Simon reach out to get others involved? How did his persistence and passion pay off in the end? Can you think of other people like Simon who have changed the world for better?
Families can also talk about stereotypes. Simon and his friend Marcus call the other activists they see "freaks" and the only time loggers are really shown they are acting aggressively. Did you notice that in the film? Do you think either of those groups deserved to be shown in a better light?
Families can also read more about the spirit bear and the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition. See the Other Resources section for further reading.