3 1/2 (out of five stars)Director: Jeff OrlowskiCast: James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinterRated: Unrated, with moments of mild peril and a couple of instances of profanity.Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
‘It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness” was a favorite Chinese proverb of the late “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schultz. Photographer James Balog must have taken that to heart as he noticed changes to the wild world he documents, and heard all the cursing dominating the discussion of global climate change.
So Balog set up time-lapse camera gear and mounted them in front of a number of the world’s glaciers for three years. And in starkly beautiful, simple and damning images, he showed glaciers disappearing so fast he had to reaim his cameras just to follow their rapid decline.
“Chasing Ice” is a beautiful documentary that follows Balog, who often works for National Geographic, in his dogged quest to silence the blizzard of denial that the film sums up in montages of TV footage. Ideologues such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh use “Al Gore” as a curse word to dismiss the overwhelming evidence and the unified scientific research that burning fossil fuels has warmed the planet and is melting the world’s ice, from pole to pole. Balog answers them with simple, blunt images.
“Chasing Ice” follows the photographer as he works out how he’s going to photograph this process in Iceland, Greenland, Montana and Alaska.
Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski rides along as Balog visits scientists who have the ice core samples than give testimony to the rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere. Film cameras sit in as Balog meets other scientists who link the longer droughts, harsher fire and tropical storm seasons to the warming planet.
And here’s the head of the world’s largest reinsurance company, the insurer to the world’s insurers, to reassure that, yes, this is happening, and, yes, it’s already costing his company, and us, a fortune.