“We are working on documentary film about Spitsbergen. We are looking for videos on which we can see polar bears moving around in human settlements e.g. in Longyearbyen (bears wandering around the city, attacking people or maybe when someone shoot a bear).”
This is one of those times when someone else’s words leave us with none (at least when it comes to a witty opening for an extra-long installment of this week’s weirdness).
The request, posted Tuesday on a community Facebook page by a producer working on the documentary for a Polish TV station, had jaws dropping and memes flowing as about 40 mostly “WTF?”-type comments were posted during the next ten hours (and doubtless many more are coming). While Svalbard is home to plenty of polar bears – but no, there aren’t more of them than people – their visits within the city limits of Longyearbyen are exceedingly rare. Only two bears have been killed in town since the 1960s – and one of them was wandering away from town, but officials had to kill it because of people who swarmed out to look at it – and none in many years.
Now that we’re provided a straightforward explanation for why the request is so utterly bonkers, we’ll again let the words of others fill the weirdness quotient via some of the responses.
• René Olsen: “Yes, that’s very common in Longyearbyen, we film people getting attacked in town all the time before we decide to shoot the bear…’just hold on a little bit longer Bob, this is gonna look so good on Snapchat, first he rips you scull half open, then I’ll jump in with the rifle and take him out.'”
• Veronica Langteigen: “Exactly what is it you think Longyearbyen is? Your questions is not related to anything that would be useful for a documentary about neither Svalbard, polar bears or the people living up here. Read up on some new and accurate articles on this place, there should be thousands available if you Google it.”
• Morten Viking Sundby (the page administrator): “OK, this post has been reported but I will let it be so people can see the stupidity the moderators see every day.”
• Kai Ketil Sand: Couple of years ago I did a duty on one of the research boats up here. We did a job for an German documentary company/television. Of course about the Arctic. (Not climate change). They asked questions like: ‘What time does the glacier calf’ and ‘can you fix a seal lying on floating ice?’ Of course we contacted our secret connections. And fixed it.”
Marcin Wisniewski: “As you can see the small, but very close community of Longyearbyen reacts adversely when someone intends to reproduce stereotypes from kindergarten kindergarten (because probably not from gymnasium). Instead of offending people, it is better to check how many times in the last dozen or so years there were cases of shooting a polar bear and were any of these episodes in the city? In addition, it’s best to get yourself on SAS or Norwegian, talk for a couple of nights with people in Stationen or Kroa and have a lot of fantastic stories to show (not necessarily about bloodthirsty polar bears near the supermarket) and friendly contacts for free.”
And finally, the last word from the filmmaker, Justyna Baran, when we asked her about her intentions for the documentary and the requested footage.
“I did not expect that my post will bring so many bad emotions,” she wrote in a reply that she also posted on the Facebook page. “Our documentary film is not about that. It’s about strong, proud people, especially woman living on Svalbard. And the bears are just an interesting fact, small (part of the ) episode but on YouTube we cannot find many proper files so we decided to ask and buy it from residents.”
OK, getting back to our usual length and format for these rants, it seems after giving that filmmaker grief an explanation is necessary for the photo at the top of the page that clearly shows a polar bear within a couple of meters of some guy in the center of town. It was published by The Weekly Times of Australia with the headline “Bill Sykes gets up close and personal with a polar bear.” Apparently Sykes is former political party leader who encountered the creature while on vacation here this summer. “He was out on his morning walk in Svalbard,” Sykes said. “I thought I was gone. Turned out he was only photo bombing.” The newspaper opined “judging by the look on its face the polar bear did not take kindly to Bill’s choice of football scarf. Must be still be unhappy about the Brisbane Bears being renamed the Brisbane Lions.” The story totally neglects to mention that it’s a stuffed bear outside a gift shop that tourists insist on touching despite signs and staff telling them not to. While that’s totally obviously to anyone who lives or has been here, it might explain why people like that filmmaker think we’ve gone to the zoo, so to speak…
If you think this week’s main photo is messed up, then get ready to go full-on profane with a batch of them by Swedish photographer Emma Svensson in a post on her website titled “Ten Fucked Up Photos From Svalbard.” It seems the screwing started when something in her camera broke and would no longer accept compact flash memory cards. “So at the bottom of the bag I found an SD card 16GB Ultra II,” she wrote. “I do not think you understand how slow it is, but it at least it wrote. When I then loaded the images into the computer, virtually every picture was destroyed. But in a very nice and creative way! Love how this error made the pictures finer.”