Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Chasing Ice (PG-13/80 Min.)
Across the US and around the world we’ve heard debate after debate after debate regarding global climate change. Are we really affecting our planet? Is something we are doing causing major, damaging weather patterns? Are we dooming ourselves and the creatures of the world to loss of home, health and life? Very good questions. This film set out to answer some, if not all, of them.
Spike and I went to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA) Sunday to see the documentary Chasing Ice. Why? Because it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song and I am determined to see as many Oscar nominated movies as I can before the actual show. That was my one and only reason. Spike went because he thought it sounded interesting and because the pictures were sure to be above par. We were both happy. Despite faulty cameras, faulty knees, faulty helicopters and a somewhat tippy dog sled this film was a success.
The story line for Chasing Ice is as follows (IMDB):
“'National Geographic' photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In 'Chasing Ice,' we follow Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. Balog's hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a young team of adventurers by helicopter, canoe and dog sled across three continents, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story in human history. As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramp up around the world, 'Chasing Ice' depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to gather evidence and deliver hope to our carbon-powered planet.” Anonymous
That is pretty much what we saw. Several scenes covered televised debate and lectures given by Balog but for the most part it showed what happened while he and his team were out in the field. We hadn’t even gotten 10 minutes in to Chasing Ice and my emotions were already in turmoil. I’ve seen firsthand the damage that has been done. When I was ten years old my family took a vacation up to Canada and we had our awe struck by a massive glacier there. A couple years ago we went back to the same glacier. So much of it was gone. Please see the pictures at the end of this post. It was my niece’s first time to see the glacier so it was still pretty cool (no pun intended) to her. The rest of us had to process the major recession (for lack of a better word) that had occurred in just 27 years. I had to call my dad just now to find out the name of the glacier. It’s the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Ice Field. It was still plenty impressive but it was disheartening to see the loss. But, enough about me.
Balog and his team, Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), planted over 2 dozen cameras on parts of Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana to document the disappearance of the glaciers. It was fascinating to say the least. I’m a big fan of photography so this hit just the right chord with me. Despite the cold temperatures they had to endure and the climbs they had to make to get some of the pictures, I would still love to go to these areas. I want to see and document some of those views myself. Back to the cameras. The team set them up with the intention of checking them every few months. Imagine their frustration when the cameras didn’t work. I very nearly cried with Balog. How disappointing that had to have been. I do applaud him for not cussing or throwing anything. At least if he did, it didn’t make it in to the final production.
Once the cameras were fixed they recorded amazing things. I can’t even begin to describe the changes they documented. Balog made comparisons for us so that we would understand the magnitude of the loss. It was greatly appreciated. In one scene there was, what we thought, a small hill of ice with different neat-looking striations. It didn’t look that big but we didn’t have anything to compare it to. Then the helicopter got closer and we saw a teensy tinesy dot of a man standing on part of it. In yet another scene the helicopter was being filmed from afar as it was flying close to a glacier. From the vantage point of the team it was so tiny as to be somewhat difficult to see with the naked eye and it still had a ways to fly before it reached the end of the ice. The cameras had to zoom WAY in to capture it.
Not only did the cameras need to be fixed but so did Balog. His knees were not handling the stress very well. He had multiple surgeries to allow him to continue to make the perilous climbs and hike miles to get the cameras set up and to take pictures with his hand-held camera. One of my favorite conversations in the film occurred when the team had returned from climbing down in to a big hole for some pictures and video. Balog was sitting in a chair with ice on his knee and said that it hurt worse right then than it had for the first three days after his surgery. His team informed him that he didn’t need to go with them to check the next camera. They could handle it. Balog commented, “I have a hard time letting ideals go,” to which one of the team members quickly replied, “That’s why your knee is like this.” At least they kept their sense of humor.
While the pictures and video alone made this worth watching I learned a thing or two along the way. For instance, it is believed by some that 200 – 300 years from now the increased carbon dioxide caused by man will bring about the mass extinction of certain animal life. How does this affect you? It doesn’t. Not really. It does, however, affect future generations. Why should you care? Why shouldn’t you? But what if you don’t have children? You wouldn’t visit someone’s house and leave it worse than when you got there would you? Same goes. Leave your planet pretty, people! I also learned about Cryoconite. What is Cryoconite? I’m glad you asked! My good friends Merriam and Webster define it as “dust that is found on the surface of a glacier (as the Greenland ice cap) esp. on the bottom of small depressions and is formed as a result of differential melting of the ice”. The black sludge left by dust (blown in from other countries, believe it or not) and soot from diesel engines absorbs the sun’s heat and causes the ice to melt. Another very interesting/disturbing fact, if I understood correctly, is that over 150 million people will be displaced within Balog’s daughters’ lifetime due to the rising sea level. His example; not mine. That’s a LOT of people! Balog shared so much more but I think it’d be better if you heard it from him. That and I couldn’t write it all down. Oh! I also learned about glacier calving. Look it up. It’s very interesting.
The saddest, and yet most amazing, part of the film involved the Ilulissat Glacier. These scenes alone are worth your time and money. Two members of EIS camped out on a spot overlooking the glacier to see if they could catch any kind of movement. They waited close to three weeks before anything happened and when it did… Wow!
I know I’ve told you straight out what happened in parts of the film but nothing I’ve said should ruin any of it for you. Chasing Ice was well made. The photographs are breathtaking. The information was well-delivered and the lady sitting next to me made it all the more enjoyable. In one particularly hairy scene (the team climbed in to a huge crevasse) she started saying, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh” over and over ad nauseum. It was quite entertaining. If you'd like to see some of the pictures taken during the filming of the documentary, please go to James Balog's web site here.
I would recommend this for just about anyone. It’s important information along with stunning landscapes. And Scarlett Johansson sings the song “Before My Time” that was nominated for an Oscar. Who knew she could sing? I’m not sure that small children would get anything out of watching Chasing Ice but maybe kids around 10 years old and up? I would think so. If someone asked me to, I would go see this again. For those of you who live in or near OKC, this will be showing again this Thurday evening, 31 Jan 2013, at the OKCMOA. It starts at 7:30. I hope that anyone outside of OKC is able to find a showing on the big screen. If you know of a showing and would like to share, please do so in the comments.
I just looked to see what this was rated and was somewhat surprised. It got it's PG-13 rating, I guess, because one of the men mouths the F-word. As most of you know, I don't much care for this word but come on! Really? That was the only cuss word in the entire documentary. Spike thought he heard another one but I believe Balog said "frickin" or "freakin". I'm just sharing what I heard. I would hate for someone to miss out because they are against seeing movies with this rating or higher.
P.S. I discovered that most of the people in the audience do NOT like Sen. James Inhofe. When the film showed a clip from TV on which he was speaking nearly everyone booed him. Yikes! I guess they don’t think global warming is a hoax.
P.S.S. After watching Chasing Ice, I asked Spike what he thought. He liked it but also mentioned that all this could just be a part of the cycle of nature and as the planet went through one ice age it could do so again. Well, hmmmm.
Following are the pics of the Athabasca Glacier taken on our 2009 Canada vacation.