B.C.’s coastal rainforest and its unique creatures are featured in an IMAX documentary film opening this week in Victoria and around North America.
Great Bear Rainforest, Land of the Spirit Bear is narrated by Vancouver actor Ryan Reynolds, and features the camera work of Ian McAllister, co-founder of environmental society Pacific Wild.
It has its red carpet premiere at the Royal B.C. Museum IMAX theatre in Victoria on Wednesday, opening to the public on Friday, Feb. 15. It also begins its international theatre tour Feb. 15 in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and other giant-screen venues around the continent.
The IMAX project is an ambitious entertainment and educational project, produced with the support of Kyle Washington, a Vancouver resident and executive chairman of Seaspan Corp. In an interview with Black Press, Washington said McAllister was pitching him to support Pacific Wild’s work in the remote Central Coast area, and the documentary project came out of that.
“I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist,” Washington said with a laugh. “This is just an expensive way to do it.”
The film comes with a classroom educational guide and is designed as a field trip for students around the world to get a vivid look at the wilderness teeming with whales, wolves, bears and marine life.
“The film is really a big-fish-eat-little-fish story,” Washington said. “It starts in the spring with the herring coming in. It changes the whole ocean. Through the film you start with those little tiny things and end up getting into the wolves and the bears.”
Choosing a narrator for a wildlife documentary is “mission critical,” Washington said, and he was looking for a younger voice.
“Ryan, he’s so witty, he’s a good Vancouver boy, and when we reached out and told him about it, he took us up on it,” Washington said. “We met him in New York. What a professional.”
The run time of the film is under 50 minutes, which was required by IMAX so it would qualify for an Academy Award nomination.
As the movie was preparing to launch, the B.C. education ministry launched its own website, sponsored by the Great Bear Rainforest Education and Awareness Trust.
The region, which spans 64,000 square kilometres of the B.C. Central Coast, was subject to a unique protection area worked out with 26 Indigenous communities that put 85 per cent of the territory off limits to commercial logging.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Heiltsuk village of Bella Bella in the heart of the region as part of their B.C. tour in 2016, where Prince William announced that the Great Bear Rainforest was being included in the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy Initiative to promote forest preservation.