Time Out New York / Issue 597: March 8€“14, 2007
Eleven years after its release, Peter Lynch’s man-versus-bear documentary inspires artists at Flux Factory.
By Dan Avery
When Canadian documentary filmmaker Peter Lynch completed work on Project Grizzly in 1996, he knew he had something special on his hands. Detailing Troy Hurtubise’s quest to create the ultimate anti-grizzly bear armor, the film taps into something primal – capturing Hurtubise’s struggle to tame personal demons even as he shields himself from furry predators. Since its release, Project Grizzly has garnered a fan base that includes Quentin Tarantino and Matthew Barney (it even earned the Holy Grail of pop culture- a reference on The Simpsons). More than a decade later, Project Grizzly has resurfaced as the inspiration for “Grizzly Proof,” a new exhibition of bear-themed installations at Flux Factory (the film will screen before the show’s official opening on Friday 9). Lynch chatted with TONY from his Toronto home about Grizzly‘s enduring appeal, his contribution to the Flux Factory show and why a certain comedic commentator has it in for our ursine friends.
Where did the idea for Project Grizzly come from?
I had been doing films about people who map their own territory. A producer asked if I wanted to do something on this guy up north who was working on a bear-proof suit. After meeting Troy and seeing how charismatic he was, I knew it’d translate well into a story.
Is Hurtubise a serious inventor, a raconteur or a humanitarian?
He’s all of it. There’s a part of him that’s P.T. Barnum, but there’s also a Matthew Barney kind of performance art to it. Troy sees himself doing something to benefit humanity, but there’s a real gap between his vision and reality that’s fascinating. I mean, the chest plate is titanium but then another part is just covered in gaffer tape. It’s like an inflated hockey uniform.
What are you contributing to “Grizzly Proof”?
It’s a tent in a dark room, lit only by a Coleman lamp. You’ll hear these primordial sounds getting louder until they completely envelop you and you feel this physical presence bearing down on you. I’m fascinated by the “scared white man in the forest” experience.
Have you seen Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man?
Yes, I loved it. I think there’s something theatrical about both Troy and Timothy Treadwell. They’re both sort of addressing something bigger than the bears. Troy said his grizzlies were tougher than Treadwell’s, though. “His are a lot better fed,” were his exact words.
Why does Stephen Colbert hate bears so much?
I don’t know – maybe it makes him feel safer in a dangerous world? For me, I’m in awe of them. The grizzly is under siege by man. It’s the bear that needs the suit.
How does it feel to know your film is still so popular?
It’s surreal, but also affirming. It makes me feel alive in the world to know I created something that really resonates with people.