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'In the West sometimes they think that Siberia is snow and nothing else. But there is such life and energy here!'
dancer Sergei Polunin

First images released from stunning film about bears of the Russian Far East

23 June 2015

Documentary team captures amazing pictures of daily lives of animals, including a touching case of motherly love.

The first pictures from the forthcoming production, Kamchatka’s Bears: Beginning of Life are anything to go by, his latest movie is certain to become a worldwide success. Picture: Igor Shpilenok

The stunning first images have been released of a new documentary showcasing the life of bears in the Siberian wild.

Filmmaker Igor Shpilenok, 55, knows better than most the beauty and majesty of the nature surrounding us, having spent years taking images of it with his camera.

And if the first pictures from the forthcoming production, Kamchatka’s Bears: Beginning of Life are anything to go by, his latest movie is certain to become a worldwide success.

The website for Shpilenok’s company Lesfilm explains the documentary will showcase 'the world of nature that lives in line with its laws, but is friendly to those who enter it with respect and an open heart'.

Bear documentary


Bear documentary


Bear documentary


Bear documentary

'Today I could see a male bear trying to seduce an impregnable female. At first he was falling at her feet, and then beautifully slid down the snow.' Pictures: Igor Shpilenok

Two storylines in particular feature in the production, one about the unrequited love of a male bear and the other of a mother and her playful cubs.

Speaking from Kambalnoe Lake on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Igor said: 'Today I could see a male bear trying to seduce an impregnable female. At first he was falling at her feet, and then beautifully slid down the snow.

'It was all just for her, but she wasn't impressed, and it was in vain. They left in different directions. But that's OK because in a couple of days she'll be more accommodating.'

Igor joked that filming of the bear cubs is 'under threat' because the crew have been besotted by enjoying the antics of the family.

'In crucially important moments we're laying down in the snow laughing instead of focusing on work. We are very lucky with this family.

'First of all, the portly mother Maria Mikhailovna is almost not afraid of people. Most likely, she came from Kurilskoye Lake where she got used to lots of visitors coming to look at her.

Bear documentary


Bear documentary


Bear documentary


Bear documentary

'That's when we all laugh out loud, which interferes shooting and sometimes even makes it impossible. Cub even manages to sleep on mom's back.' Pictures: Igor Shpilenok

'Out of the seven bear families we found, Maria is the only one who allows people to observe at a distance of 50metres or even less. Sometimes she even brings the cubs a dozen steps closer to us, as if she was boasting.

'Actually it's a typical behaviour of female bears in South Kamchatka's federal park. They keep close to humans to keep the cubs safe from male bears who are eating the babies when there is a lack of food.'

He continued: 'Secondly Maria has an outstanding son. He's got so much personality. We call him Chapay. He's using his mum to ride on her back in a way I have never seen.

'That's when we all laugh out loud, which interferes shooting and sometimes even makes it impossible. He even manages to sleep on her back.'

Kamchatka’s Bears will be filmed over an eight month period and turned into a 90-minute production for release in 2017. It is described as 'a unique observation of bear families to uncover the mysteries of the growing up of new-born bear cubs'.

Igor said: 'Existing documentaries on bears were all filmed over a short period of time. The disadvantage of such projects is that the plot is set by humans, not by the nature. Russia is called the tsarstvo, the kingdom, of the bear, but we know nothing of the real personality of our symbol.

'How do bears grow, how do they study, how do they interact socially?'

Bear documentary


Bear documentary


Bear documentary

'Maria has an outstanding son. He's got so much personality. We call him Chapay. He's using his mum to ride on her back in a way I have never seen.' Pictures: Igor Shpilenok

Kurilskoye Lake, a Unesco World Heritage site, is the biggest in Eurasia for the breeding of salmon, with the bears attracted to the waters. There can be up to 200 bears at a time on the shore.

Russia has about 110,000 brown bears, and populations have been relatively stable in recent years, though over-hunting remains a serious problem in some regions.

The Lesfilm team comprises a number of skilled professional experts in their fields, among them ecologist Dr Valentin Sergeyevich Pazhetnov, who is dubbed 'uncle bear'.

Shpilenok is accustomed to Russia’s rural wildlife, having set up home with his wife and four sons in the Bryansk forest, not far from the borders with Ukraine and Belarus.

A fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, he is a winner of the 2006 BBC Wildlife Photographer Competition and his work has been published in numerous international and Russian magazines.

Comments (1)

Thank you for sharing the pictures. Greetings from the Netherlands
Yann, Brouwershaven, Netherlands
27/01/2016 22:58
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