Sundance London 2012: ‘Chasing Ice’ a striking environmental documentary

Chasing Ice (directed by Jeff Orlowski)

Chasing Ice
Directed by Jeff Orlowski
USA, 2012

Environmental documentaries tend to be more about numbers.  Looking back to my first (and only) viewing of An Inconvenient Truth, it felt like a lecture.  So, when Chasing Ice was listed as part of the Sundance London’s film programme, there were some doubts as to whether it can convey the message about climate change better than previous efforts.

Chasing Ice is a documentary focussing on the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), a project that captures time-lapse footage from certain glaciers, which periodically documents their physical state.  The film follows renowned photographer and EIS founder James Bolag on his mission on to show how climate change is affecting glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere, in parts such as Alaska, Greenland and Iceland.

The film itself started as two different projects until the director Jeff Orlowski decided to combine the two during his time as the EIS videographer.  The documentary charts the life of the project, from creating the necessary equipment to continuously photograph glaciers for several months to Balog putting himself at physical risk.  Balog and the team raise a bar in terms of lack of self preservation, such as abseiling down ice overhangs, but the results that the project have captured are staggering and need to be seen to be believed.

Chasing Ice is more than about melting glaciers.  There is a personal message coming across; in terms of Balog’s point of view, you can see the level of his dedication to his project and the passion for ice photography comes across so vividly in the film. He has a vision that stretches across all age ranges and Orlowski is able to convey this, plus the message of global warming, in a way that everyone can understand – through still and video footage – making this documentary visually stunning yet highly compelling.

Chasing Ice is a beautiful, moving and effectively thought-provoking documentary.  It is one of the best environmental documentaries in recent years and needs to be seen.

Katie Wong

The 26th-29th April sees the Sundance London Film and Music festival hit the O2 Arena, which sees the festival – renowned for its programme of independent film – take place in the UK for the first time in its 34-year history.


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