Tasmanian tigers and polar bears: the documentary moving image and (species) loss

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In this essay I explore how two divergent examples of the nonfiction moving image can be understood in relation to the problem of representing species loss. The species that provide the platform for this consideration are the thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian tiger, and the polar bear. They represent the two contingencies of species loss: endangerment and extinction. My analysis is structured around moving images from the 1930s of the last known thylacine and the very different example of Arctic Tale (Adam Ravetch, Sarah Robertson, 2007), a ‘Disneyfied’ film that dramatises climate change and its impact on the polar bear. Species loss is frequently perceived in a humanist sense, reflecting how we ‘imagine ourselves’ or anthropocentric charactersations of non-human others. I offer a close analysis of the two films, examining the problem of representing extinction through a consideration of the play of absence and presence, vitality and extinguishment, that characterises both the ontology of cinema and narratives about species loss.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-162
Number of pages18
JournalNECSUS: European journal of media studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Tasmanian tiger
  • animals
  • documentary
  • environment
  • extinction
  • nonfiction
  • polar bear
  • species loss
  • thylacine
  • wildlife fim

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