Film a meditation on wilderness, elements

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Mythology, mystery, and music combine in an imaginative feature film by Richard Sidey, of Wanaka.

Elementa is a black and white experiential film by the award-winning wildlife photographer and film-maker.

The moment that spawned the film was when Sidey was filming at the Gitga’at First Nations territory in British Columbia.
‘‘I had read about this mythical white bear that inhabited a few of the islands’’
— a black bear with white fur, known as Moksgm’ol (ghost or spirit bear).

He travelled to the islands, finding a local First Nations guide and ‘‘spent a wonderful week in the rainforests basically sitting in one spot in the hope to get a glimpse of this white black bear’’.

After patiently waiting he was ‘‘really lucky’’ when the rare creatures emerged.
The bears ‘‘mysteriously appeared out of this deep green, lush rainforest’’, coming to the river’s edge to catch salmon.

It looked ‘‘bizarre — you’ve got this white bear in a dark green setting’’, he said.
Sidey’s guide told him a story that the bear was a reminder of the Great White Time, when the world was covered in ice.

He noticed that each day, at about 3 in afternoon, the sun would pierce a hole in the dense forest canopy and illuminate a pool of water in the river.
After days of patiently waiting, on the final day of filming one of the bears walked through the patch of light — ‘‘the result was the bear became quite illuminated brilliantly against the dark forest, and that was the image I took home from that trip.’’

During the next few years, in between filming on other assignments, he continued to gather shots that would be part of his black and white ‘‘mediation of wilderness and the elements’’.

The final film was the result of five years of filming on seven continents, he said.
Ambient composer Boreal Taiga, of Seattle, added an ‘‘ambient drone style’’, Sidey said.
‘‘I feel quite a connection to his music.’’
‘‘It works well with these landscapes, particularly these arctic landscapes which are often barren, quite desolate.’’

The film has been edited in a tryptic format allowing for the same or different scenes to be shown at once.
‘‘The triptych format is something I have played with before, I really enjoy it, it brings a whole lot more opportunity for presenting images on a screen, and because there are no words in Elementa, the visuals are really important.’’

The film will feature as part of the The Documentary Edge International Film Festival which for the first time will be available to stream online from June 12 to July 5.

Festival director Dan Shanan said in times of social distancing, the event wanted to bring the community together ‘‘and what better way to do this than with film”.