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James Balog and Jeff Orlowski team up in what turned out to be a
fantastic effort in documenting vast amounts of photographic evidence
of the effects of recent global temperature increases on glaciers in
Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
The footage is magnificent and the film is scored very well. James Balog's personal challenges in undertaking the project are also documented, and present an interesting angle to this style of documentary.
By presenting the footage in as non-partisan manner as possible, Chasing Ice avoids tarnishing its message with politics.
Obviously it's preaching to the converted here in Berkeley, but this
movie is to global-warming deniers what sunlight is to vampires. You
can't sit there and see these glaciers melting before your eyes and not
be shaken. I had no idea it was happening so fast.
Regarding movie production values, it's a DOCUMENTARY folks, and a pretty darn good one - no one in my group was bored at any time. Really good story about this guy's obsession to document it, and awesome (in its original sense) nature photography, with some cataclysmic moments. We could hear some booms and crashes from the big-budget extravaganza Cloud Atlas playing in the theater next door, but I think this movie was just as cool, and it's all real.
@ JustCuriosity: Yes, it is an emotional appeal, and that's the point. Most people who are in denial don't have a clue of the scale of the problem and don't care, or they care in a shallow way about "the environment", but that's seen as some abstract thing out there somewhere, not related to their daily lives.
@Tracy Allard: Yes, the science and models are solid; climate scientists have been saying that for years, and they've been trying to get across to the rest of the world how serious the problem is. Meanwhile, the right-wing idiocracy has been shouting them down for crying wolf and even accusing them of fraud. This footage is undeniable evidence of the reality of global warming, and it's vital that as many of the public see it as possible.
I'm trained as a scientist and I'm painfully aware that 90% of Americans could care less about models - any mention of math or anything they don't understand instantly causes their eyes to glaze over. In fact, a growing proportion of Americans think that science is just a bunch of hooey made up by eggheads to pull something over on the rest of society. As Balog notes, half of us still don't believe in evolution. Please read Charles Pierce's Idiot America for more on the scope and magnitude of that problem.
A whole generation of us has been raised to believe that any nonsense can be true if only it's repeated in the media loudly and often enough. The only way that people are going to update their perception of reality is if they are forcibly shaken awake by events such as a hurricane in Manhattan - or perhaps sitting comfortably in a theater watching a piece of a glacier the size of Manhattan suddenly fall off.
Excellent film. Solid science and art. Thorough and beautifully made. Saw it at the Big Sky Film Festival, with the director Jeff Orlowski doing a Q and A following. Very inspiring work by photographer Jim Balog--the human subject of the film. It's a wonderful thing when a person of strong science background becomes an artist and visa versa. Science is rarely beautiful to those that are not intimately involved with it, so when a person of Balog's background attempts to tell its story to a wide audience (with the help of a film maker and technical experts), it comes together magnificently with beauty and the gravity of what it really is about. A must see for EVERYONE.
The photography is absolutely amazing in this film! If you have any interest at all in nature photography, it is a must see. For those who criticize, I would remind you that it IS a documentary. It's SUPPOSED to be about the process and the people involved. It is one man's story of his passion for photography, the environment, and making an impact. It's not meant to be a dry science class,full of statistics and probabilities. It is simply the undeniable photographic documentation of how significantly the planet is changing from the effects of global warming. It's meant to SHOW people the beauty of our world and to illustrate that is dying right under our noses. Perhaps photographs aren't as scientifically "valid" as modeling and statistical inferences, but they ARE irrefutable and far more convincing to most of the general population.
James Balog has one goal in mind throughout this entire documentary: to
photographically demonstrate the rapid melting of our earth's glaciers.
He doesn't throw statistics at us (okay, maybe one or two), and he
doesn't bring politics into it, all he does is undeniably prove that
the vast majority of the world's glaciers are disappearing right before
What this documentary does is capture his journey to photograph these glaciers. It shows his struggles, his failures, and his successes. Yes, he may come off as a bit of a hero, but what he's doing truly is heroic and simply cannot be missed. The photography throughout this film is spectacular--absolutely gorgeous. In fact, he photographed an article on this topic for National Geographic, and if you've seen their photographs, you know the level of quality we're talking about here.
At the same time, however, there's kind of this sense of impending doom amidst all the beauty. It essentially shows all the damage humanity has done, in the past ten or so years alone, and I can only hope it's not too late to fix at least some of what we've caused. If this documentary can't get you to see the world and it's people differently, then I don't think much else can, his results are simply that stunning.
National Geographic photographer James Balog wanted to test his
skepticism about climate change. With his Extreme Ice Survey, he was
able to photograph undeniable changes in some glaciers.
In this documentary, Balog deploys a series of time-lapse cameras to capture a long term visual record of the world's changing glaciers. The lengths to which this is accomplished is mind boggling.
It's a compelling watch and an important work. But it's the shocking final result that will amaze you. The visual of these glaciers actually melting right before your eyes will shake you to your core as it did to me.
Chasing Ice This documentary meets art feature and Sundance select for
Excellence in Cinematography is visually breathtaking! This had been on
my watch-list for months & thankfully the Environmental Protection
Agency (Great organisation which deserves more recognition for their
excellent reports, which were the backbone for my thesis on
environmental issues last year!) Organised a special one-off free
screening in the Irish Film Institute last night and the first of a
partnership series hopefully. It was great to see a full-house with an
applause at the end.
The documentary follows National Geographic photographer and Extreme Ice Survey founder James Balog and his passionate team across Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and the Arctic as they installs custom-made time-lapse cameras to document never before seen glaciation at an extreme. The resulting photography is both frightening and breathtakingly beautiful.
The issues that many people seem to have with this film are that it doesn't engage in a political argument and that it doesn't provide a solution to the problem. Balog stated that this isn't a political problem, it's a universal problem. The point is he's delivering a message with his photography and he's letting the photographs do the talking, not tarnishing the message with politics. & the aim of this film is to spread awareness not to provide a solution.
This is an eye-opener and a visual reference as to how much climate change is immediately effecting our plant. At one point we witness footage of the largest ever recorded glacier calving, an iceberg larger than the island of Manhattan calves from a glacier in about 75 minutes. Politicians and energy corporation executives should be made sit a mandatory viewing of this. Seize any opportunity you get to go see this on the big screen.
You can now apply to host a screening on the Chasing Ice website!
I enjoyed seeing Chasing Ice on the opening night of Austin's SXSW Film
Festival, but I was also a bit disappointed by it. The film only partly
delivers on its great promise, because it can't quite figure out
whether it's a national geographic-style nature documentary, a personal
adventure story or an environmental advocacy film. In the end, it tries
to do all of these things and doesn't quite do any of them as well as
it could. Chasing Ice is at its best when it documents Extreme Ice
Survey's (EIS) beautiful photography of the melting glaciers perhaps
better than anyone has done before. While the photography delivers an
emotional punch it can't really speak for itself. The scientific
evidence requires a lot more explanation than they provide. The film
starts out with clips of talking heads criticizing climate change, but
they never fully answer the criticism and never fully defend the case
that climate change is man-made, dangerous, and in need of an immediate
global action to remedy. Nor do they provide any particular direction
for what the viewer can do either personally or politically to address
Instead they spend way too much telling their own story. They delve into the technical difficulties of mounting cameras to photograph distant glaciers over a period of years, the complexities of hiking to these locations, the personal danger and discomfort they had to endure, and most peculiarly the physical problems that lead photographer James Balog experienced with his knee problems and surgeries. All these personal stories are interesting to a point, but distract from scientific case that they need to make. This should be a scientific and environmental story not a personal narrative. The powerful case that the beautiful photography makes is undermined, by poorly conceived film narrative. The average viewer needs a lot better understanding of what the melting of the glaciers means and what sort of affect this will have on their daily life in the near future. A better narrative device might have been to show the melting ice of the glaciers and then film the rising sea level in other parts of the world. Some reports have suggested that the Maldives Islands might soon be underwater. Showing where the water from the melting glaciers is ending up could have proved to be a much more powerful narrative device. I wish they had done a better job at telling an important scientific story with deep political and moral significance for the planet.
During the Q&A after the film, Balog argued that this isn't a political problem, that it is a universal problem. It may be a universal problem, but its solution requires collective political action that is based on science not emotion. They are naive if they are unwilling to engage the powerful political debate that is preventing progress on this issue.
Noted photog and National Geographic contributor James Balog leads us on a tour of the glacial north in this stirringly-framed argument against the sins of global warming. It's a three-pronged picture, stuffing a biography, research paper and technical adventure into one seventy-minute package, and often feels scattered as a result. The science makes for interesting brain food and Balog's personal journey is unique, if a bit overplayed, but the real show-stoppers are his long-form time lapses and breath-stealing snapshots of nature at its most profound. The centerpiece of this film, and of his argument, are a series of three-year-long panoramas in which we clearly watch several glaciers shrink and recede at an alarming rate; a convincing testament to both the presence and speed of the global melt. Though Chasing Ice can certainly be accused of getting caught up in its own self-importance (or lost in the data), those lingering tastes of proof are worth waiting for and the constant presence of Balog's powerful photo portfolio makes the ride there especially sweet.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a photographer, James Balog is to me as I am to a cockroach,
although I have done a little bit of glacier photography. So it is not
surprising that he has worked for National Geographic and has made the
movie, "Chasing Ice". I recently traveled some distance to Chicago to
see this movie, which contains the most stunning glacier images
Early in the movie he wades barefoot into freezing surf full of iceberg chunks to obtain pictures of water breaking over the ice. Right there I was hooked into this movie on the basis of the photography even before we get to shrinking glaciers and what they say about global warming.
The centerpiece is the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the project he established to provide dramatic documentation of the shrinking glaciers. He and his coworkers placed cameras with automatic timers overlooking glaciers in the far north to take several years of time-lapse pictures of these moving rivers of ice.
He also clambers over difficult, icy surfaces to photograph the melting itself. Rivers of melt-water flow down the glaciers and into gigantic holes, where the ice has been eaten away, providing a path to the bottom. To photograph this, he needs to climb down difficult, dangerous, icy cliffs that would be nearly inaccessible even to someone with two healthy knees, which he does not have.
There are several dramatic scenes showing his tribulations with his nasty knee and balky equipment. They remind us that such struggles are part of the adventure of understanding nature. There is a darkly amusing scene showing his fight just to walk (to get the facts) juxtaposed with the talking heads of the usual gang of global warming deniers (accusing scientists of fakery).
The payoff is the parade of the glaciers, the moving (in more ways than one) images of rivers of ice charging forward while the glacier fronts crumble even faster, eating the glacier from front to back. Other images show glaciers shrinking top to bottom so rapidly that it looks as if they are deflating. My only criticism is that these images went by too fast, hence only a 9 rating instead of 10.
Shrinking glaciers are natural thermometers, which help document the reality of global warming. I hope that the widest possible audience will be able to see this. It is not, nor was it intended to be, a systematic scientific survey. There have been many such surveys showing, for example, that we are not just cherry-picking the glaciers that are losing mass. Balog's intent was to provide the most riveting possible observation, and he has succeeded. Looking at a thermometer will never be the same.
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