Knut and Friends tells the story of Knut, a polar bear born in captivity in Berlin Zoo and contrasts his early life with three polar bears born in the wild in the arctic and two orphaned brown bears in the forests of Belarus.
Born on 5 December 2006, Knut and his brother (who died just a few days later) were abandoned by their mother, Tosca, a former circus bear.
Knut was hand reared by Thomas Dörflein, who moved in with the bear in order to provide the round-the-clock care he needed, including feeding him every two hours on a mixture of cat food, baby formula, cod liver oil and special vitamins.
The cute bear was a media celebrity and, from the moment he was first presented to the public on 23 March 2007, proved a big hit with visitors. He was so popular in fact that in 2007 Berlin Zoo reported an increase in attendance of 30%.
The bond between Knut and his keeper is clear in the film. The bear follows Thomas around, responding to his calls to “Komm her”.
Knut and Friends ends on a positive note but unfortunately, Knut died on 19 March 2011, when he was just 4 years old. He suffered a seizure and drowned after falling into the water in his enclosure in front of several hundred horrified zoo visitors.
In 2014, the results of an extensive investigation into Knut’s death by Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin (IZW) were published, revealing that the underlying cause of his seizure was encephalitis (an acute inflammation of the brain), the result of an unknown viral infection.
Thomas Dörflein, Knut’s keeper and surrogate parent also unfortunately died far too young, like the polar bear he cared for.
The narrative from the perspective of the wind is a bit laboured but the cuteness of the bears, in particular the Berlin celebrity Knut ensures that Knut and Friends is a highly watchable documentary.