Solar Polar
Alaska: Spirit of the Wild
Review by Ross Anthony

Opening with a global graphic of the ice age expansion complete with creeping glaciers and receding oceans, the land bridge over the Bering Strait becomes quite clear. The Siberian migration to the Americas is the first hint of the rather primal Native American spirit that permeates the picture.

Great ice blocks break from ice mountains and crash into the sea below, "White Thunder" the Eskimos call them. And the magnificent Northern Lights, "Babies not yet born at play in the Heavens." The film does a gorgeous job of bringing to life the non-living elements of Alaska. I loved the spiritual Aurora shots reeling to the sounds of angelic toddlers.

The animal life of Alaska also takes to screen: beavers, wolves, mooses, playful sea lions (loved the trolling shot), the awesome journey of salmon and the brown bears that fish for them, polar bears in their fiber optic-like fur conducting solar heat to their black skin.

The sequence covering the humpbacks is spectacular. Did you know they dive deep, then emit a ring of bubbles around a school of fish, then ascend through that ring to eat them? Fascinating! And well captured here on film.

Also mentioned, the whale-hunting traditions of natives and the gold rushing habits of those from the lower 48, and of course, the Iditarod. Warmly filmed (despite the latitude), sharply scripted narration, with an appropriate score. "Whether or not we ever reach Alaska, we all want to know that such a place still exists.

PS: The film claims that polar bears can smell a sea lion 20 miles away. One mile, I think I could believe, but 20!??? Nope, I just don't believe that and I challenge the writers (or any readers) to send me the research. Goodness, how could you even test for such a thing?

  • Alaska: Spirit of the Wild. Copyright © 1997.
  • Narrated by Charlton Heston.
  • Directed by George Casey.
  • Produced by Paul Novros, George Casey at Graphic Films Corporation and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:21:07 PDT