Most of the documentaries that make their way to the red carpet on Oscars night have big statements spilling out of their reels–agenda after agenda that typically pull at the heart strings of America and make radicals out of people who otherwise wouldn’t give a care. Chasing Ice is certainly in the same category, although I respect the creators’ story telling more here than in other documentaries I have watched because of The Academy.
I have to tell you guys, as much as I love and adore documentaries, I am not a fan when they have an agenda. Although it is clear that Chasing Ice is making a statement, it is one of the few that presents its argument in a much better way than just simply biased interviews and clever editing techniques. No, the creators of Chasing Ice know what they are doing and how to persuade the everyman as well as the educated. They may have an agenda, but they balance their techniques by not just playing off the emotions of their audience, but by presenting physical, visual facts that are hard to argue against.
The film follows the journey of one James Balog, a photographer for National Geographic, who went to school for science but found his passion in cameras. He became passionate about ice and glaciers and began a three (plus) year journey of documenting the changes that these giant formations go through. Through many trials, he and his team constructed boxes and computers that could withstand the elements in places like the Arctic, Alaska, and Montana. They put cameras here that would take hundreds of thousands of photos during the years so that he could put them into time lapses and show the world what was really happening to our ice.
He, among many others, strongly believes in climate change and global warming. He believes that it will greatly and very negatively affect our futures on this earth. He knew, however, that words were not enough. That skeptics would just listen to someone else. So instead of just speaking his convictions, he took action and, through many trials as well as physical injuries, has spent years of his life photographing the changes in glacier formations.
The documentary also features interviews from Balog’s family, his assistants, and other experts who he may or may not have worked with. The “agenda,” or emotional subplot are actually kept to a minimum in most of the interviews and I believe that the filmmakers did a very good job of translating their story through visuals instead of words.
That being said, the film was not nominated, the song from the final credits was. It is a cool, haunting song accompanied by the smokey voice of Scarlett Johansson, and is much more radical than the film itself. It speaks of the passion that the filmmakers and photographers must have felt, even though they pulled back and gave more educated arguments. The song itself was emotional like most documentaries with an agenda, and although as a stand alone song it is weak, it is strong within the film.
While the film itself is not necessarily the most outstanding work out there (evidenced by the fact that it missed out on a nomination), I appreciated their ability at story telling. I felt a connection to the people within the film, and the photography made me fall in love with ice in all of its beauty. If you have the time to spare and want to see some incredible landscapes (and probably the most shades of blue you’ve ever seen in your life), I would recommend that you see this film.