Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Film Review: Chasing Ice

You know how you put things on your Netflix list and then just keep moving them down. They're the movies that you feel like you should watch, but you just don't have the heart to. For me, many of these are documentaries, often about subjects that are depressing.

Chasing Ice was one of these films. It seems like everybody had seen it and loved it, but I just didn't want to see anything else about climate change and about the melting of glaciers. So I pushed it down my list and pushed it down again. Finally, I watched it...

And it was depressing. But it was also awesome.

James Balog, an outdoor and environmental photographer, became well-known for his inspiring images. He shot for magazines renowned for their photos like National Geographic, Life, The New York Times Magazine and Outside. He worked in the outdoors relentlessly and found himself to be a skeptic of climate change when it became a common topic of scientific discussion. He felt that he just hadn't seen it... That is, until he made a trip to Iceland and quickly changed his mind. He became convinced that human beings and human activity are at the root of climate change.

Balog understood how hard it was for the average person to understand or see climate change. He understood that it's easy to be a sceptic until you see the glaciers and the changes their going through. So he decided to initiate a project, The Extreme Ice Survey. With this he would use time-lapse photography to chronicle the changes that the glaciers go through over the course of years.

Chasing Ice is Balog's story, as well as the story of the disappearance of the world's glaciers. And it is depressing. The glaciers are going away. Balog's survey demonstrates this in a way no one else ever has. We can literally watch the glaciers melting away.

But Chasing Ice is also awesome.

The images that Balog and his team capture are unprecedented. One of the most amazing moments of the film takes place near the end, when his team is onsite at a massive glacier when an island the size of Manhattan breaks away and crumbles into the sea. The violence and the grandiosity of the collapse are things that have never been witnessed by a person holding a camera before.

Chasing Ice puts a glacial face on climate change. And no matter how depressing documentaries like this can be, we have to watch them. We have to tell others to watch them, and we have to fight to save the ice in our mountains and at our poles...

--Jason D. Martin

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