Director hopes 'Arctic Tale' will educate, entertain

By Anna Ferguson

Staff Writer


Over the span of 15 years, Sarah Robertson witnessed first-hand the changing of the Arctic wilderness. What was once a frozen wonderland of ice quickly became a mild and thawing tundra.

"We went up every year for about three or four months and it was amazing to just see how it all changed right there, practically before our eyes," Robertson said.

Thankfully, Robertson captured footage of the melting phenomenon and pieced it together in "Arctic Tale," a movie that opens in local theaters this weekend. In a similar vein as "March of the Penguins," the film showcases the lives of animals in the Great North and is narrated by Queen Latifah.

"We knew we wanted a voice that was relatable and recognizable, and Queen Latifah was that person," Robertson said. "She jumped right on board and finished her recording in one day."

While the film is a documentary, Robertson prefers to think of it as a character study. The story follows the lives of a polar bear cub and a walrus babe as they face challenges pertaining to their melting home in the Arctic.

"Of course, it's not the same animals through the film. It would be impossible to find that same polar bear every time we went back," she said.

Robertson and her filming crew ventured into the Great North in the spring and summer months, when temperature averaged between minus 20 and minus 40 degrees, she said. The region is inhabited by animals, with no human life around, and the filming crew made their way around with help from field guides. They slept in igloos, and when the packed rations ran out, they ate off the land. No one ever went hungry, and no one, really, ever went cold.

"You'd be surprised," she said. "We dressed in mostly caribou fur, which was really warm, and we ate a lot of fish and caribou and geese. No one ever got sick because illness can't survive up there. It was a big rush living there. You're at the top of the world and everything is kind of topsy-turvy. "

Being in the immediate presence of a polar bear is no small wonder, and during each season of her Arctic filming expedition, Robertson never ceased to be amazed by the sheer magnitude of the mammal.

"To see them right there in front of you, it was just always, wow," she said. "They eventually accepted us being there in their habitat and just sort of ignored us after a while. I was always awed by them, but us being there didn't really affect them and their attitudes."

What has affected the wildlife of the Arctic is the warming global climate. Winters are far warmer than normal and the animals are having trouble adapting to the changing temperatures. Food is more scarce, and the old ways of living are being challenged.

"You may think that the dead of winter is a hard time because it is so cold, but when the ice doesn't freeze as much as it used to, the animals have to change their way of living. This is a real problem and it affects us all, but it is also something a lot of people don't think much about," she said. "I'm hoping this film will educate and inspire people, even to just make the small changes."