Monday, July 22, 2024

BC avalanche rescue super-dog visits Victoria to launch new IMAX documentary


Over the past two days, Victoria played host to some extraordinary, heroic visitors.

Patrons of Royal BC Museum’s IMAX theatre could be seen huddled around the entrance as rescue teams from the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association talked about their work and gave people a chance to pet and take photos with their K9 partners.

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Among them were the two most sought after members, Henry and his human handler/trainer, Ian Bunbury – stars of the latest IMAX documentary, ‘Superpower Dogs’.

Henry (in his dog-sized vest and goggles) and Ian were in town on June 25th and 26th to promote the release of the movie.

‘Superpower Dogs’ follows the stories of 6 incredible dogs around the world who, along with their human partners, work hard everyday to save lives in several unique ways.

This 45-minute documentary has been 3 years in the making, and will be available for public viewing at IMAX Victoria starting Friday, June 28th. It has currently aired in 60 cities across 6 countries.

The 3D movie showcased on IMAX Victoria’s 6-storey high screen brings the audience closer than ever before to these four-legged superheroes, through striking imagery and descriptive – and at times, comedic – narration by none other than Captain America (Chris Evans) himself.

By the end of the film’s premiere screening, not a single dry eye was to be found.

Keeping the ski hills safe

Anyone who has ever visited the snow-capped mountains of interior BC knows that disaster can strike at any second, and usually without warning.

Luckily, Ian Bunbury and his trusty Border Collie avalanche rescue dog Henry are on the job and can be airlifted to wherever skiers and snowboarders fall prey to the wrath of the slopes.

“Statistics show that if you’re not found within the first 30 minutes [of an avalanche], your chances of survival drop by around 90%,” Bunbury told Victoria Buzz, while his K9 partner napped quietly on a couch nearby.

So to keep accidents from taking as few lives as possible, 7-year-old Henry works and trains everyday as one of the 35 avalanche rescue dogs at the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA).

His story is the first one featured in ‘Superpower Dogs’, when the opening scene pans over the K9 cuddled in the arms of his handler as they hang on to a ladder suspended from a helicopter.

This breathtaking moment leads into a safe descent after which Henry embarks on his assignment du jour, and therein the story begins.

(Henry and Ian share a moment/Photo by Brishti Basu)

Occupational Hazards

While for the most part, conducting search and rescue missions is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience for Henry, the job does not come without its occupational hazards.

In fact, the daring Collie incurred one of the most common injuries for avalanche rescue dogs during the filming of ‘Superpower Dogs’ itself.

“We rode up the peak chair while filming and then took off [skiing] down an easy trail – we’ve been down this trail a hundred times – and he got cut on one of my skis,” said Bunbury.

“Fortunately we have a really good vet who patched him up and put a white bandage on him [to match his fur] during the rest of the shoot.”

Of course, the jobs of the five other dogs featured in the movie are no less dangerous and equally essential.

Some seek illegal poachers in the heart of Africa, while others save countless lives after natural and man-made disasters.

Still others work tirelessly to safeguard the coast of Italy, and one legendary dog heals humans with special needs by peering into their souls.

‘Superpower Dogs’ follows each dog and handler to showcase their unique roles that are often taken for granted.

Ties to Victoria

While the movie takes viewers all around the world, its writer and director reserves a special place in his heart for Victoria, where his parents currently live.

Over the course of his career, Daniel Ferguson has produced, written, and directed numerous acclaimed documentaries including ‘Last of the Elephant Men’ and ‘Jerusalem’.

One of his areas of expertise lies in documenting the stories and lives of wild animals, and Superpower Dogs is Ferguson’s first foray into the world of canines.

“To be honest, I didn’t know if I wanted to make this movie because I always want to do something different that has never been done before,” said Ferguson.

“For me the hook was dogs who can fight crime and save lives, which sounds like a gimmick but what I realized is that the real superheroes are Ian and Henry combined.”

“The right human and the right dog can achieve great things.”

The right human

Luckily, he was also able to find and recruit the right human when it came to narrating the film.

Hollywood actor Chris Evans, best known for his role as Captain America in the popular Marvel franchise of the same name, is the voice of Henry as he goes through the stories of all six superdogs.

“It’s a dream pairing,” said Ferguson, about Evans joining the ‘Superpower Dogs’ team. “First of all he’s a dog nut, he’s always posting about dogs.”

“He fell in love with Henry and was totally engaged with narrating the film. [Evans] was more into Henry than anyone else in the room, and really gravitated towards that dog.”

Captain America’s love for dogs has clearly been infectious for the director of the movie.

While he and his family currently do not have a canine member, Ferguson tells Victoria Buzz that he does see dogs in their future after working on ‘Superpower Dogs’.

You can catch the movie in IMAX 3D starting this Friday!

Superpower Dogs

  • When: Starting Friday, June 28th
  • Where: IMAX Victoria, 675 Belleville St
Brishti Basu
Former Senior Staff Writer and Content Manager at Victoria Buzz.

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