Saturday, October 27, 2012

“Chasing Ice” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the new documentary “Chasing Ice”. 



An experienced nature photographer spends years photographing various icebergs around the northern hemisphere in order to illustrate the impact of global warming on the planet. 


Photographer James Balog certainly never started out life wanting to be considered an environmentalist – but that seems to have been the life path that he wound up taking, as accidental as it may have been.  With a background in geology and a passion for photography, he wound up combining two of his greatest interests by forging a long, successful career as a professional photographer of many outdoor scenes.  But it was one particular shoot from a few years ago that eventually sent him off on a new obsession – one fraught with great controversy.   

During a photographic expedition to the arctic region in order to capture climate changes, he gradually became a true believer regarding the issue, despite having a great many doubts previously.  This experience inspired Balog to the most ambitious project of his or any other photographer’s career:  to obtain visual verification that the earth’s temperature is increasing by showing the melting of massive icebergs around the world. 

Balog then set out on his mission with a team to help him set up photographic equipment in Iceland, Greenland, northern Montana and elsewhere.  This equipment included new and as yet untested technology for time lapse photography techniques in an environment that was as unfriendly to the technology as it was to humans.  Despite frequent challenges and occasional failures, Balog was able to successfully obtain evidence that the increased use of carbon emissions over the centuries has had a direct impact on icebergs receding and glaciers rapidly melting. 



Perhaps the most impressive thing about “Chasing Ice” is the number of stunning visual images that were captured both on video and in still pictures.  Among these include an event referred to as “calving”, which is where huge chunks break off from icebergs and then become glaciers, which then aimlessly float throughout the ocean, eventually melting if they wind up managing to travel far enough to the south.  Additionally, evidence which proves over a period of time – usually years, but in some cases months – that ice caps are shrinking in size at an alarming rate. 

There are parts of the film that are quite dry, specifically when much of the technical and statistical details are delivered – so from that standpoint, viewers can certainly be somewhat grateful that the documentary is under an hour and a half.  However, the filmmakers do make an effort to humanize the subject matter by showing the effects of Balog’s extensive travel and adventurous behavior on his family as well as how health problems occasionally limited his active participation in his own project. 

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed both Balog and the documentary’s director, Jeff Orlowsky, who was also a member of Balog’s team.  Orlowsky explained that originally, the plan was not to shoot a documentary to be released in theaters, but instead, to act as the project’s videographer in order to record the actions taken on this expedition.  It was only after a certain amount of footage was recorded did he go to Balog and tell him that it appeared as though they had the makings of an actual film on their hands.  Balog talked at great length about the technological advances that have occurred during his long and illustrious career as a photographer and how that has changed how he works;


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