BBC Wildlife Magazine

Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson

The filmakers give us a glimpse into the lives of polar bears surviving in Arctic Norway


How did the idea for this film about polar bears come about?

This project has been a passion of Alastair’s for over 10 years. We both worked on the BBC’s Frozen Planet series, and from those early experience­s of working in the Arctic with bears, we were both aware of the powerful narrative that surrounds this iconic animal, and aware of how that narrative is becoming more and more important to tell as the Arctic changes due to global warming. On top of that, polar bears are fascinatin­g – highly intelligen­t problem-solvers living on the edge in a jawdroppin­gly beautiful environmen­t, which is a great starting point for any film!

What prompted the decision to have Catherine Keener narrate in first-person? Writing a feature-length narrative in the first person is extremely tricky, and has never been done in this format before, so we were understand­ably nervous at first. However, as our story evolved, it became clear that it gave us a powerful way to communicat­e the experience of a female bear from her childhood through to her adult life. When we tested voices for the narrator, Catherine Keener’s was standout for us and completely suited the tone of the character we had originally imagined. But the magic that came together when the first-person narrative was delivered by Catherine – that was totally unexpected.

How did you choose which polar bears to follow and film?

Actually, it is the bears who choose to work with you, rather than the other way around. We are always incredibly mindful of the bears who are more shy and want to keep their distance, so we only tend to work with those who are more willing to allow us into their world to observe their behaviour. For this film, we did end up working with some absolute stars though. It takes a very special and confident mother bear to allow you to observe the inner workings of her family, so in that regard, we were extremely lucky.

What’s your favourite part of the film? There is a unique and previously unseen moment when the female protagonis­t meets a young male bear out on the sea ice. The crew had ever seen anything like it. As they were not a threat to one another, and they were not ready to mate, they simply revelled in each other’s company, and spent hours playing. It is such a privileged view of a bear’s life that is rarely seen.

t first glance, this book seems to be just about fairies and Mimi, the little girl of the story, dreaming about seeing them in her garden, but there’s another layer to this story. She wants to create “the very best garden” for the fairies to live in, and starts on tidying up her garden in order to make it perfect; pulling up weeds, flicking away caterpilla­rs, raking up leaves, and spraying plants to keep bugs away. “There could be no garden more perfect in the whole wide world, she thought.” But despite all her hard work, in her adorable gardening outfits, she doesn’t spot any fairies living in her garden. They come to visit, and explain that actually she’d raked away their nests, made their pet caterpilla­rs sick and generally made the garden unsuitable for fairies.

Mimi works hard again to make her garden better for the fairies, who return to live amongst the flowers and other species. The book ends with advice on how make a fairy- (wildlife-) friendly garden, and how to make a little house for a fairy to live in. It’s a lovely tale, perfect for any children that dream of magical fairies and love wildlife.

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Alastair ( and Jeff ( have worked together on a number of documentar­ies, including
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