This documentary follows National Geographic photographer James Balog as he journeys across the Arctic to capture the world's changing glaciers with time-lapse cameras.

Climate doco gets to heart of issue.

In Chasing Ice, debut filmmaker Jeff Orlowski captures staggering images of the natural world in decline and a photographic artist driven by despair over the Earth’s changing face .The documentary’s central figure, National Geographic photographer James Balog, similarly provides wondrous footage of his own, set against the backdrop of the stunning icescapes of Alaska, Iceland and Greenland. Balog is also a compelling onscreen presence, and his creative highs and emotional lows provide a human core to the environmental narrative.

Less a didactic 'message-movie’ than a study of one man’s steely determination

The footage is collated from thousands of hours of coverage that began in 2007, when Balog and his academic initiative, Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), began positioning cameras at key observational points around the world’s great glaciers. After some frustrating technical glitches brought about by the relentless, unforgiving climate of the regions, Balog and his small team finally realise their dream: stop-motion footage of the glacial face receding at a never-before-seen rate. The film presents the initiative’s discovery that these enormous bodies of ice have declined more in the last decade than in the previous 100 years; the footage of 'glacial calving’, during which blocks of ice as large as skyscrapers break free from the ice shelf, is as extraordinary as you’d expect.

Less a didactic 'message-movie’ than a study of one man’s steely determination, the debut helmer directs with a sure hand and no-frills aesthetic.

Helpfully, the science of Balog’s complicated findings is presented in layman’s terms. There is also considerable debunking of the opinions of certain media outlets and commentators; dissenters that claim the science on the warming of the planet is inconclusive and that advocates are merely greenie radicals are well and truly put in their place.

The statistical fruits of Balog’s labour (the physical feats are clearly taxing on the aging geophysicist, who undergoes his third knee reconstruction mid-film) consume the film’s final 20 minutes, with his footage revealed before lecture halls full of clearly astounded environmental and industrial representatives. It is one of the few times that Orlowski’s work recalls Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth, which relied very heavily upon the graphs-and-diagrams approach to the global warming debate. In most other respects, Chasing Ice adopts a far more humanistic, experiential framework.

The film’s one man/one mission approach also makes the irksome 'call to action’ coda adopted by many modern documentaries seem slightly more palatable; one may feel compelled to help the scientist/photographer as a kindred spirit rather than support the science he presents. Considering the impact upon future generations of a planet robbed of its natural fluctuations in climatic cycles, the imprint left by Chasing Ice and the efforts of James Balog is substantial.

Related videos


1 hour 15 min
In Cinemas 04 April 2013,