Tonight at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST, the Discovery Channel will be airing Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man, which follows Timothy Treadwell as he travels to Alaska's wildnerness every summer to live among the grizzly bears which inhabit the area.
This is a documentary that shook me to the core and it's hard for me to say why. That is to say, it's not one that gives you pause to re-examine your own life per se, at least that didn't happen with me. But I was so wrapped in the unfolding story and it's tragic yet somehow inevitable conclusion. It's somewhat jarring to watch someone's slow descent into madness.
Primarily using footage Treadwell shot himself during his time in Alaska, it starts innocently enough with the introduction of Treadwell and his interaction with the wildlife in the Alaskan refuge. Masterfully edited, it slowly becomes obvious that Treadwell is increasingly unstable and unable to cope with the fundamental nature of nature (ie, animals are part of a food chain), yet he is also unable to cope with living in the real world. So engrossing is the footage Treadwell shot of himself as you slowly begin to realize that being isolated so long has turned the camera into his friend. It's almost certain that Treadwell was going to use his footage to make his own documentary and yet he captures so many funny, disturbing and angry moments that surely would have never been used for any film.
Unthinkably, this film is not nominated for an Academy award for documentary film and that's quite a shame. This was one of the best documentaries I've ever seen and the best of the year for certain. I liked March of the Penguins, I liked Murderball too, but this one is simply a cut above. I suppose not being nominated is why it can be aired on the Discovery Channel, though I'm sure it will be edited and censored heavily since Treadwell rather frequently delves into foul language territory. Watch it tonight and if you enjoy it, rent the DVD to see it in all its unedited glory. This is definitely one to watch.