Legendary MT bear researcher’s story to be shown at Flathead fil - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Legendary MT bear researcher’s story to be shown at Flathead film festival

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POLSON - A researcher who’s legendary for his advancement of our understanding of bears will be in the spotlight this weekend, as one of the films to be screened during the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest.

It’s a documentary filled with “lost footage”, pieced together with a few tears, and lots of fond memories of Dr. Chuck Jonkel.

It’s been almost two years since Chuck Jonkel’s remarkable life came to a close. It was a life full of discovery, travel, quite a bit of risk, and advancing the science of bears by leaps and bounds. 

“Walking Bear Comes Home”, is the final look at Jonkel’s life, a project was starting to come together even before he passed away. Producer and Jonkel’s college, Frank Tyro, tells me that like his work, the film itself was built around discovery.

“He showed up one day with this big reel, this 16-millimeter, no sound. Some of it black and white film," Tyro said. "And we’re going through this and it’s like ‘my gosh’, here’s one of his techs doing artificial respiration on a polar bear. And there’s footage that was shot after a helicopter crash, in which, nobody was injured. But they were just kind of left way out in the wilderness way above the Arctic Circle.”

But “Walking Bear” is also a very personal story, and while friendship makes it a moving film, it also made it tough in the editing suite.

“It was blood, sweat and tears because, you know, seeing his face after he had passed away there were parts of it that were really hard to edit. But I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”

“Walking Bear Comes Home” is one dozens of films which will be screened during the Cinemafest this weekend at Showboat Cinemas in Polson. More than 15 countries represented, with 22 filmmakers coming to the festival. Tyro says it’s really a “golden age” for independent film now, with very high quality productions that convey all emotions.

“You know, you can shoot really good stuff on an iPhone. You can shoot really good stuff on a really, very inexpensive camera and still make beautiful films.” 

“Walking Bear Comes Home” shows Saturday at 4 p.m. You can click here for a complete list of the Cinemafest screenings.

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