Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

“Chasing Ice”

Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski will be at the Oriental to introduce and answer questions about his film, "Chasing Ice." Mark Metcalf reviews the powerful documentary.

By - Dec 19th, 2012 04:00 am
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Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet – James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey. All photos courtesy Submarine Deluxe Pictures.

Approximately 1.6 percent of Earth’s water is in the form of ice—polar ice caps and glaciers, not the stuff in your cocktail. This figure is perpetually changing as glaciers calve, which is when huge chunks of glaciers break off and float away in the ocean and become icebergs, eventually becoming water. In the long winter months, the oceans near the polar ice caps freeze again; snow falls, piles up, and glaciers grow. The winds blow, the temperature changes, water melts, freezes, melts again and freezes. The world moves on.

Photographers have long been fascinated by the shapes and forms, as well as the light-reflecting and refracting properties, of ice from an artistic standpoint. Now the subject is of growing interest to photographers as journalists. That’s because there is significantly less ice each year as the planet reaches a critical point in its constant evolution. Yes, we are talking about climate change or, as it was once erroneously called, global warming.

James Balog has been a leader in photographing, understanding and interpreting the natural environment for three decades.

James Balog is a nature photographer who is fascinated by wildlife, old trees, and, most recently, ice. In 2007, he formed a research group call the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS). He began photographing glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana. He set up hundreds of cameras to shoot time-lapse photographs of the glaciers as they melt and freeze, calve and reform. Documentary filmmaker Jeff Orlowski followed him on this endeavor. The result is Chasing Ice.

The film studies Balog’s journey, chronicling his realization that climate change is a very real event. The results are emotionally and psychologically startling. In one sequence, his cameras watch as a piece of glacier the size of Lower Manhattan breaks and falls into the ocean, all over the course of 75 minutes. His time-lapse photographs, taken over a period of three to four years, show the dramatic reduction in size and shape of the Northern Hemisphere’s glaciers. By the end of the journey, the audience arrives at a palpable conclusion: climate change is a reality. The planet is changing, and we will have to change with it or be swept away like the sand on the beach in New Jersey.

I don’t know that we caused it or if we can stop it or even slow it. I am not one of those that thinks man is all powerful; it is massively egocentric to think that man is the sole cause of what is happening to the world’s climate or to think that we are powerful enough to stop it from happening. But I do think that the discussion about whether-it-is-happening-or-not is long over. It is well past time for us to start doing what we can to prepare for climactic changes and time change the way we live on this planet in a way that accommodates the fact that the rock is extremely powerful and very much alive.

Chasing Ice screens Friday, Dec. 21 at the Oriental Theatre on 2230 North Farwell Ave. Director Jeff Orlowski will be at the Oriental to introduce the 7:30 and 10 p.m. screenings on Friday and Saturday, which will both be followed by a Q&A with Orlowski.

For more of TCD’s film coverage, including more of Mark Metcalf‘s “Moving Pictures” reviews, visit our Film Page

Categories: Movies

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