The New Yorker débuted a new short documentary today, “Nuisance Bear,” which presents a portrait of a Manitoba town where travellers arrive in droves every autumn to observe the migration of polar bears. The footage that filmmakers Jack Weisman and Gabriela Osio Vanden captured reveals as much about the behavior of the humans—including the scrums of wilderness paparazzi that descend on Churchill, Manitoba every fall—as that of the bears.
Earlier this week, “Nuisance Bear” received three Critics Choice Documentary Award nominations—a first for a short—for Best Cinematography, Best Short Documentary, and Best Science/Nature Documentary. These nominations join a list of more than a dozen other honors for the film.
In a genre that relies heavily on voice-overs to bridge the gap between humans and wildlife, Weisman and Osio Vanden chose not to include narration or music in the film. Weisman told The New Yorker, “We were curious: Can we make it an experiment—a challenge to ourselves as artists and filmmakers—to tell this narrative and have people really feel engaged without those elements?” Another pivotal moment came during the filming, when they decided to mount a camera on their car, at the eye level of the bears. “It was important for us to maintain that animal’s perspective,” Osio Vanden said. The result is a film that pushes the conventions of the nature documentary.
“Nuisance Bear,” which was executive produced by Sigrid Dyekjær and Alex Pritz, has screened at more than ninety festivals and received numerous honors, including an Honorable Mention for Best Canadian Short Film at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as selections at the SXSW Film Festival and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. It also won the Academy Award® -qualifying awards for Best International Short Film at the 2022 American Documentary and Animation Film Festival (AmDocs) and Best Non-Fiction Film at the 2022 Short Shorts Film Festival.