Chasing Ice

CHASING ICE. Starring James Bolag. Directed by Jeff Orlowski. 75 minutes. Rated M (Infrequent coarse language).

No matter where one stands on global warming, the photography of ice, its shapes, extent, iceberg-forming, melting, is quite extraordinary in its beauty as well as in its scope.

James Bolag pursued geomorphic studies at university but was not interested in science through statistics and computer modeling to continue. He took up photography, producing books of nature studies when he decided to go to the Arctic Circle to photograph the ice. Wary of global warming, he was overwhelmed by what he saw in the ice floes, the ice packs, the icebergs, and decided that this was to be his subject. Which means that he is the subject of this film as well as the ice.

The film has a commentary about Bolag and his career, his pursuits, his intrepid following the ice, despite physical difficulties and injuries. It also shows a number of his dedicated assistants in his project of placing time-lapse cameras in different countries of the Arctic, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, as well as sponsorship from organisations like National Geographic and the establishing of Extreme Ice Survey (EIS).

The director, Jeff Orlowski, also a cinematographer, followed Bolag in his exploits and has assembled a great deal of his footage to illustrate what is happening in the Arctic Circle and with the Arctic ice and its melting. With his cameras in place, sometimes in very difficult places, which required ice-tracking skills and mountain climbing, there will be data available over years so that scientists can study what is happening with the Arctic ice.

Because of his lack of interest in statistics and modeling, the film works with its visual impact as well as its emotional impact. This will be welcomed by many people, and popular audiences, who feel bombarded by statistics but need this kind of anchoring in reality, no matter how subjective the approach of the film-makers, to be really aware of the consequences of warming. On the other hand, those who are skeptical about global warming, will not be impressed by beautiful images, challenging images, the course they are not hard science, hard evidence.

Nevertheless, Chasing Ice is well worth seeing for those images.

This blogger who wants science rather than photography and emotion puts that point of view plainly: Yes, the photography is lovely, yes the photographer passes himself off as heroic, yes the locations chosen are amazing. But this film contributes next to nothing to our understanding of glacial melt or AGW. It is most unfortunate that someone such as he, who once claimed disbelief in the science of global warming, would be so assuming as to think he could take a couple of years worth of photographs, and thereby produce "better" or shall we say more compelling, evidence than thousands of scientists. To those out there so naive of science, please hear this: modelling and statistical inferences are thousands of times more valid evidence of global warming than a couple of lovely photos, PLEASE update your perception of the world! These photos are but anecdotal, they contribute nothing to the understanding of AGW. (IMDb, Tracy from Montreal).

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Madman Films

Out March 6 2013.

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