Chasing Ice

Review by Honor Eldridge

Chasing Ice (2012) details the story of James Balog and the work of his Extreme Ice Survey team. This group of dedicated photographers installed cameras in the toughest conditions to capture glaciers as they rapidly receded. The compilation of their time lapse photographs creates a dramatic and unquestionable narrative of climate change. One of the most poignant moments of the film is the Jakobshavn Glacier calving when 7.4 cubic kilometers of ice splits off from the rest of the ice sheet. The event lasted 75 minutes and, since calvings are notoriously difficult to predict, it has gone down in history as the longest and most complete example ever captured on film.  

The film details the enormous physical and emotional strain of the team to achieve their goals. They endure endless sacrifices including broken backs and extensive surgeries to capture for perpetuity the loss of our ice-sheets. The documentary acts as a testament of their work and the necessity of it to engage an apathetic public. The footage is undeniable and at times takes your breath away. While one may understand and logically comprehend the devastation that climate change has wrought on our planet, the images that the film presents its audience with are stark and visceral. When viewing the documentary its hard to argue with the maxim that one photo is worth a thousand words. 

James Balog and his team have used the documentary as a outreach tool and have had numerous screenings on Capitol Hill. Having seen the dramatic footage, many lawmakers have been convinced of the need to address climate change. While the narrative of the film doesn’t stress an activist position but rather follows the personal story of these intrepid individuals, its difficult not to come away believing in the necessity of reform. Without lecturing, it creates a strong and unequivocal argument and is a fantastic communications tool for the movement.