Thursday, 6 June 2013

Chasing Ice

Released on DVD by Dogwoof and also their first ever Blu-ray release, Chasing Ice is the multi-award winning feature documentary that shows a changing planet before our very eyes.

Chasing Ice is directed by Jeff Orlowski and tells the story of world National Geographic photographer James Balog and his work with time-lapse cameras for the Extreme Ice Survey.

Starting in 2005 with his work for the magazine when Balog ventured north to the Arctic to take pictures of the changing landscape.  Balog was shocked to realise the landscape changing before his eyes prompting him to challenge pre-conceptions and let the world know what was happening to a world that was being taken for granted.

Balog's plan was to set up time-lapse cameras in several locations across the world ranging from Alaska to Greenland to Canadian mountains to Norway.  Balog could be described as a globe trotting humanitarian James Bond or Jason Bourne.

Throughout the film we follow Balog as he comes to terms with what he is discovering, the pressure both emotionally and financially he puts himself under through the process (ultimately leading to vindication on his part). The audience really feel for him when he goes to see the cameras for the first time after a few months and finds that they have malfunctioned meaning a loss of time, effort and money; he breaks down by a camera his frustration apparent to all concerned.

Being a film on a photographer, the film-makers use a lot of Balog's archive of which there are some stunning shots exhibiting his keen eye for scale and depth of perception.  One awe-inspiring sequence is when Balog and his team are setting up a camera, and a sheet of ice that looks perilously close to breaking up from the huge ice expanse actually breaks off before their eyes - climate change in front of their eyes.

Whilst climate change has been a format for documentary makers for many years especially Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and last year's The Island President (also released by Dogwoof) those films reflected more on personal political diatribe and descended into more of a soapbox mentality - this film benefits from having an everyman lead character who is personable and likeable coupled with physical evidence of the changes happening on film, prompting even the hardest cynics to admit that maybe a change is happening.

Yet with the astonishing imagery available to see, the film is that rare gift of one that makes you think but also makes you angry, a facet that documentaries should strive for upon release.

Chasing Ice is available on DVD (£14.99) and Blu-ray (£19.99) from 10th June 2013 in glorious high definition.

Extras including a Making of Interview with the Filmmakers, a commentary track with the director Jeff Orlowski, James Balog; a week with the film in Sundance, updated time lapses and an interview with composer J. Ralph about his Oscar nominated song, 'Before My Time'

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