And so begins my 2015 Documentary Watch Project. I’m always interested in documentary films but never seem to get around to actually watching them (because I’m doing really important stuff like…ahem…watching Grimm and Arrow). My goal is to view at least one documentary a month, which is nothing…but a start.
Chasing Ice is my January Pick. It’s languished in my Netflix queue because of my fear that it might be emotionally devastating. But I’m interested in climate change and I appreciate the merger of science and art. James Balog is a photographer I’ve long admired and who is perhaps the most well-known animal photographer working today. In Chasing Ice, we get to know him on a very personal level, accompanying him and his team on an Arctic journey of several years, photographing and recording the retreat of some of the biggest glaciers in the world. When I make this statement about the retreat of the glaciers, it’s not propaganda or a political agenda. It is a fact, and you can see it for yourself in Balog’s stunning time-lapse films. Literally watch miles of the Columbia Glacier – a river of ice at least 126,000 years old – disappear before your eyes, and gape as an iceberg larger than Manhattan breaks off the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland and crashes into the sea. Stay for the science and the photographs, and then do your own research – by which I don’t mean your news source (or mine).
Balog and his team – the Extreme Ice Survey (which in the documentary seems to be two incredibly resilient assistant photographers, but is for sure a much bigger posse) – travel to Alaska, Montana, Iceland, and Greenland to set up cameras in prime locations to record images of glaciers and calving sea ice. From 2006 to 2009 they helicoptered, ice climbed, sled dogged and trekked their way into these unbelievably remote (and fricking cold) locations to place their cameras (and by “place their cameras” I mean anchor those bastards to rock ledges well enough to withstand everything Mother Nature might hurl…failing spectacularly quite often…we get to see Balog cry on camera at least once). The result is both Art – the photographs are breathtaking (and they are portraits, really – of our Earth itself) – and Evidence. Or a warning?
Just watch the documentary to see magnificent ice and our loss of it. Ice – what Balog calls a “limitless universe of forms.” So gorgeous, so massive, so deceptively permanent. I’ll say that I didn’t need a soundtrack of elegaic piano music to help me realize that this is a planet we live on, and we are part of it – this incredible blue and green ecosystem, this sphere spinning in the universe. The planet changes itself, but we also change it by what we do. How utterly foolish for us to believe otherwise. Whatever your reaction to the words “climate change” or “global warming” might be, this is a film that should be seen. I’m glad I finally got around to it.
I’ve got a few ideas for my February documentary pick, but I’m absolutely open to suggestions. Please send me your thoughts in the comments!
Read other Posts in my 2015 Documentary Watch Project
Photo from Unsplash