It was supposed to be a soothing and serene camping excursion in the Torngat Mountains of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Matthew Dyer, a civil attorney based out of Lewiston, Maine, was anxious to take in the splendid natural sights and indulge in his long-time fascination with the majestic polar bear. Not long into his dream expedition, one of those bears got too close, and Dyer came back home a physically shattered man.
In the earliest moments of Polar Bear Man, an enlightening new documentary from VICE Reports, Dyer describes the horrific injuries he sustained in the jaws of the massive beast. "I had a broken jaw," he recalls. "I had a collapsed lung. I had a cracked vertebra in my neck. Essentially, as I understand it, [the bear] paralyzed one of my vocal chords. He was just trying to get me out of that tent with his mouth."
Polar bear attacks on humans are not a new phenomenon, but they've remained relatively rare until the past decade. As explored over the course of this riveting film, one of major culprits behind this upward shift comes from what some may consider a surprising source: climate change. A warming planet has destroyed much of the ice that polar bears depend upon to seek out their food. As a result, these bears are forced to find their nourishment through other channels, and this has translated into increased incidents of aggressive interactions with humans.
With sensitive and painful intimacy, Polar Bear Man dramatizes Dyer's struggles to find closure from his trauma as he returns to the scene of his attack. His intensely personal journey is effectively placed in a broader context as it's played out against the landscape of global warming.
Mercifully void of impenetrable scientific statistics and language, the film frames the conversation of global warming in a completely engaging and understandable way, allowing us to absorb the myriad of human costs at stake. If we dare continue our devastation of the planet and all of its natural elements, the film argues, it's an inevitability that nature will fight back.