CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000
Land of the Ice Bear.
Andrew Manske & Albert Karvonen (Directors). Albert Karvonen & Jerry Krepakevich
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
46 min., 10 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 224.
Grades 10 and up/ Ages 15 and up.
Review by Joan Marshall.
This stunning video will bring the Canadian Arctic, its animals and the land, itself, to life for
students who may never visit this remote area of our country. Land of the Ice Bear shows the
viewer a living Arctic as the seasons of the year progress. Live photography of powerful Arctic
animals completely adapted to their environment dominates this video. We see ptarmigan, musk
oxen, caribou, Arctic fox, walrus, ducks and, of course, the Great Spirit of the Arctic, the polar
bear. A topographical map shows clearly where the Arctic is in Canada, but the narrator, Susan
Cardinal, reminds us that the Arctic really begins locally where the tree line ends and the tundra
begins. The vision of the Arctic is that of a huge frozen desert brought to life in the summer for
three short months as the twenty-four hour days warm the land. Icebergs crash off glaciers, and
the sea ice freezes and thaws as the northern animals adapt their day to day lives to the seasons.
Although the video begins with haunting Inuit drum work and dancing, its focus remains the
Arctic animals and the cycle of their lives. We follow a polar bear sow and her two cubs through
the seasons as they meet musk oxen, caribou, seals and ducks. Many fascinating facts are revealed
in this journey. The Arctic fox steals birds' eggs in spite of the birds' excellent camouflage. The
musk oxen calve in May and rarely run from enemies, circling around their weaker members. The
polar bear can swim for one hundred kilometres and dive for two minutes but may occasionally be
dragged under the water and drowned by its prey, the walrus. The polar bear has better luck with
seals, smelling them over a kilometre away. Caribou break off into smaller groups for the winter
but regroup in the spring into huge herds that are continually on the move so that they don't
deplete the tundra.
The video ends with a question: can the Arctic survive the modern age with its pollution and
global warming? Only the resiliency and the persistence of its animals will sustain them as they
meet this new danger.
This video makes smooth transitions from one season to the next and from one animal to the next,
always returning to the polar bear's influence in the Arctic. The narrator's voice is pleasant, and
the rate of information given is matched well to the photography. The amount of information is
not overwhelming, and yet one finishes watching with a real sense of learning specific facts about
Arctic animals. The underwater photography of animals swimming and the sweeping vistas of
swirling wind and snow are simply amazing. The video's length of 46 minutes and 10 seconds
makes it more suited to a double class period in which it would make an unforgettable
introduction to the Arctic.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Winnipeg, MB.
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