The Grizzly Man Diaries [2008]

Title screen

The Grizzly Man Diaries is a documentary series that originally aired in 2008 on Animal Planet in 2008. Eight episodes document Timothy Treadwell’s excursions to “Bear Country” in Alaska’s Katmai National Park through live footage and still photographs by Timothy and narrative excerpts from his journals. Timothy lived among the bears, foxes, moose and other wild creatures of the park, often camping for weeks or months on end in a grizzly-packed area known as “The Maze.” Timothy developed what he felt were deep emotional relationships with the bears and foxes especially, and he enjoyed greater proximity for extended periods of time with these animals than possibly any other naturalist to date. He and girlfriend Amie Huguenard were eventually killed by a grizzly during Timothy’s thirteenth consecutive year at Katmai, on the last day of that excursion. The Grizzly Man Diaries should not be confused with Warner Herzog’s Grizzly Man [2005]. Unlike that feature film documentary, Diaries‘ directing credit goes to Timothy himself, and he’s the only human you see on screen during the four or five hours it takes to watch this strange, poignant nature doc. 

Timothy and a friend

In Timothy’s impressive footage (dude lugged some serious equipment around) we see him interact with the wild animals around him with the utmost respect and love. Timothy names the bears and foxes that he encounters year after year, watching the same ones mature and grow old, or disappear or die. He speaks to the animals in a high, gentle, effeminate voice, and through completely alleviating himself of the fear of dying, as he explains it, he’s able to actually interact physically with the animals as well. His fox friends pretty much act like dogs around him, allowing him to pet them freely, and we even see him occasionally stroking 800+ lb. grizzlies too. Timothy neglected to carry bear mace or setup an electric wire fence around his tent as the park rangers mandate to campers–both could have saved his life, but to Timothy he viewed these as barriers between him and the bears.

Mmmm fresh salmon

Timothy’s story is intriguing. The fatalistic attitude he expresses on camera doesn’t come off as affectatious because of the love and innocence he brings to his craft. It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s also a natural in front of the camera with his pleasant, if quirky, demeanor, a tall, lean physique, a solid jaw and blonde hair. Timothy had evidently pursued acting and had had trouble with drugs and alcohol. Although none of this is mentioned in the documentary–it’s all about the animals and Timothy’s relationship with them, to the point where I was hoping we’d get to see more of Timothy’s daily routine or hear about his life outside of these four month excursions–the relationships he formed with the animals of Katmai helped him clean up and also turned him into a star, if at the expense of his girlfriend’s life too.

Mom and her cubs

Diaries is a joy to watch, and I’m in no way a big nature doc guy. I enjoy watching Planet Earth as much as the next guy when I’m stoned, don’t get me wrong, but the human aspect of this one is what kept me watching. Timothy expresses countless times how much he “needs” the bears and how much, in turn, they “need” him. The latter may be questionable, although Timothy does present numbers to suggest his presence helped deter poachers during those years. But it is readily apparent how much the animals meant to Timothy, and it was strangely affirming for me to see his story and enjoy the gorgeous video footage and live photos he took of his furry friends. Through the years we see the same bears live and die, and Timothy age and eventually go with them. And we feel like we’ve somehow grown up too.

Logan’s Rating: 9/10

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: