Combustible Celluloid
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With: James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Adam LeWinter, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Louie Psihoyos
Written by: Mark Monroe
Directed by: Jeff Orlowski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Running Time: 76
Date: 03/19/2013

Chasing Ice (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Great Melting

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It has now been six years since Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006) tried to warn us all about the increasing threat of global warming, now called the Climate Crisis. At the time Gore tried to argue that his film wasn't political, but his presence -- and the threatening title -- made it so anyway. One of the people who wasn't convinced was National Geographic photographer James Balog.

Today, Balog is no longer a skeptic. He has conducted his own study, with photographs, that has him not only convinced, but also frightened. The new documentary Chasing Ice shows this experiment and its harrowing results.

Very simply, Balog and his crew developed several cameras that could withstand extreme cold and weather, and would take a single shot every so often for a time-lapse effect. The 76-minute movie, directed by Jeff Orlowski, shows the process of setting up these cameras, finding good locations, failing, and starting again.

Then we see the results; miles and miles of glaciers disappear and never return. Balog tries to give the photos scale by inserting diagrams of Manhattan and the Empire State Building. It's as shocking as if King Kong were attacking.

The movie also tries to address the skeptics and the nature of their discourse, which essentially comes down to the nonsensical argument that "there's no consensus among scientists." (Has there ever been, on anything?) Yet the more time goes on and the more scientists investigate, a consensus is nearly there.

The Climate Crisis is no fun for anyone, and all the movies in the world aren't going to solve the problem. The benefit of Chasing Ice is that it lays out the problem simply, and visually, so that even the most stubborn deniers in the world can get it.

From there, as long as enough people take small steps, the process can be slowed down. A first step will be to see this movie.

Note: Scarlett Johansson does her bit by singing a lovely tune over the end credits (music by J. Ralph). Hopefully it will help draw people in.

Docurama has released a nice-looking DVD edition. Extras include a 20-minute film festival Q&A, a 12-minute making-of featurette, and a six-minute science "update." There's also a trailer, and the film can be viewed in nine different languages.

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