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Thursday, 29 March 2018

REWIND REVIEW: Chasing Ice

(M) ★★★★★

Director: Jeff Orlowski.

Cast: James Balog, Svavar Jónatansson, Adam LeWinter.

"Why the fuck did I put my mailbox way up here?"
Firstly, let's get the obvious unfunny gag out of the way - no, this isn't about people trying to score meth.

It's actually about something which sounds like potentially the most boring documentary subject ever - glaciers. Yep, slow-moving rivers of ice that gradually roll into the ocean. Sounds great, right?

But Chasing Ice is about so much more than that. Yes, it's about glaciers, but more importantly it's about climate change, and one man's quest to illustrate the dire situation we face as a planet so people can understand it. Orlowski's documentary is brilliant because of the wondrous way it shows a worldwide story and a personal one at the same time.

It's incredible and terrifying but brilliant as well. Chasing Ice manages to be both global and personal, beautiful and bleak, illuminating and depressing. Visually, it's the most remarkable nature-based docos you're likely to see that doesn't have animals in it. It shows us rarely seen or previously unseen elements of our planet that demonstrate climate change in indisputable and astounding ways.

The story centres on photographer James Balog, and his Extreme Ice Survey. The project involved setting up about two dozen cameras in some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet with the aim of recording the slow disappearance of some of the world's biggest glaciers over three years, thus showcasing the impacts of a slowly warming planet.


The film is quite simple and direct in a lot of ways but continually riveting. It finds small narratives to drive the pacing - the issues in setting up the cameras, Balog's problems with his knee, a film crew waiting to capture the seemingly unfilmable.

It's strangely powerful stuff, and Balog's passion is all consuming. It seems to infect his colleagues, which is oddly funny, especially when you see the lengths they're willing to go to for their leader.

Boasting wonderful cinematography, a straightforward delivery, and an Oscar-nominated song sung by Scarlett Johansson, this is a surprisingly gripping film that shows us a world slowly falling to pieces, but in a way few of us really understood.

I watched this film at F Project Cinema. Full program here.

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