It wasn’t until their final icy expedition during an eight month trip to the Arctic that father-son filmmaking duo Greg and Shaun MacGillivray found the stars of their latest project: A mama polar bear and her two cubs.
The 3-D film “To the Arctic" debuts in IMAX theaters this weekend. Narrator Meryl Streep, accompanied with songs by Paul McCartney, tells the story of how the polar bear mom and her cubs are dealing with the effects of climate change.
Oscar-winning director Greg MacGillivray said the bears didn’t seem to mind his film crew of about 20 people watching their every move. He said it was like they’d been invited into the bear’s “living room.”
“The captain of our boat, who’s been around polar bears for 50 years, said that this mother is the smartest bear he’s ever been around and that’s why she’s not spending energy getting away from us,” he said. “She was completely comfortable with us, she’d come sniff our boat then nurse her cubs. It was the most charming thing.”
Shaun MacGillivray produced the film. He said in some areas where ice patches are melting, the male polar bears often hunt the cubs. Over five days during their trip, he said they saw four attacks.
“It was difficult for us because we became really emotionally connected to this family,” he said. “To see a male polar bear get so close, and to know you can’t do anything to stop it, was very tough.”
He said luckily, the mother bear in their film was able to fend off any predators.
Greg MacGuillivray said despite the challenges that polar bears and other animals, like walrus and caribou, face in the arctic’s ever-changing environment, the goal of "To the Arctic" is to portray a sense of hope.
He said the film pairs with an education campaign called “One World, One Ocean.” Over the next 20 years, the MacGuillivrays want to help educate the public about the importance of the world’s oceans and how people can change their behaviors to conserve resources through future generations.
“We want our great-great grandchildren to be able to have the same wonders of nature that we’ve been able to experience over the last 60 or so years,” said Greg MacGuillivray. “It’s a mission for us and this is the part of the mission, the film.”