A scene from "Chasing Ice." (James Balog / Extreme Ice…)
A sharp mix of portrait doc, landscape film and pointed activism, "Chasing Ice" centers on environmental photographer James Balog and his committed efforts to document climate change.
Directed by Jeff Orlowski, the film follows Balog as he sets up cameras in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Montana to use time-lapse imagery to chronicle shrinking glaciers for his Extreme Ice Survey. The sheer scale of the glaciers, some as tall as skyscrapers and as big as Manhattan, is difficult to comprehend, as are the efforts of Balog and his team to access them.
That the natural formations Balog photographs are, as he puts it, "insanely, ridiculously beautiful" certainly doesn't hurt Orlowski's film, as the staggering, otherworldly images from the genuine ends of the earth are things most of us will never see up close.
Though the filmmaker's point of view on the matter seems quite clear, Orlowski does smartly acknowledge counterarguments against climate change without dwelling on them.
With folks still recovering from the recent Superstorm Sandy, the release of "Chasing Ice" seems particularly timely. The before and after imagery of Balog's project speaks for itself, with the power and strange beauty of the evolving landscape strong evidence that something is indeed happening, now and fast.
"Chasing Ice." Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. At the Nuart.