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Project Grizzly

Year: 1996
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 72 min
Director: Peter Lynch
Producer: Michael Allder
Cinematographer: Tony Wannamaker
Editor: Caroline Christie
Sound: Rob Fletcher, Allison Clark
Music: Anne Bourne, Ken Myhr
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

Inspired by a chance encounter with a grizzly bear, North Bay scrap-metal dealer and self-described “close-quarter bear researcher” Troy Hurtubise – a born adventurer and inventor – invested $150,000 and seven years of his life to build the Ursus Mark VI, a suit of armour that would allow him to face the unpredictable rogue predator of the forests in relative safety.

Equal parts Robocop, Jacques Cousteau, High Plains Drifter, Knight of the Round Table and Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Hurtubise puts himself and his suit – a mix of rubber, titanium, high-tech plastics, chain metal and air-bags – through a rigorous programme of testing and training. To see whether the suit can withstand the deadly swat of a grizzly, he lets himself be whacked with two-by-fours, shot with arrows, hit by a three-ton pickup truck travelling at fifty miles an hour, and beaten by a gang of baseball-bat-wielding bikers. The ultimate test of his armour’s strength – and his own – comes as he flings himself off the Niagara escarpment. At last, receiving reports of grizzly attacks on campers at Lake Louise, he mounts an expedition to stare down his destiny.

In his first feature-length film, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Peter Lynch turns the nature-adventure film on its head. He portrays the quixotic Hurtubise and his strange mission with compassion while extracting every drop of side-splitting humour from the absurd situation. A thoroughly Canadian examination of the collision of reality, dream, nature and myth, Project Grizzly generated major buzz during its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival®, where Toronto Star film critic Geoff Pevere praised it as “easily the most stimulating, intelligent and innovative feature documentary made in Canada since Kevin McMahon’s The Falls (1992).”

Project Grizzly won the Best Ontario Feature Award at the Sudbury Cinéfest and earned a Genie Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Hurtubise became something of a cult figure following the film’s release. In addition to being spoofed on an episode of “The Simpsons,” he was featured being beaten with baseball bats while wearing the suit in Penn & Teller’s Las Vegas stage show.

By: Andrew McIntosh

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