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'Chasing Ice' review: Real climate change

"Chasing Ice" director Jeffery Orlowski shoots in Uummannaq, Greenland. The film, about climate change, follows National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. (2007) Photo Credit: AP

"It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness" was a favorite Chinese proverb of the late "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz. 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 took a candle -- actually, cameras, 25 of them -- set up time-lapse gear and mounted them in front of several glaciers for three years. And in starkly beautiful, simple and damning images, he showed us climate change -- glaciers disappearing so fast he had to re-aim 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 which the film sums up in montages of TV footage.

The documentary 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 that 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.

Balog, a photographer who trained in the field of geomorphology, realized "a powerful piece of history is unfolding," and focused on "the most visible evidence of climate change" -- glaciers, which are both retreating and "deflating," thinning out as they melt. That's where he and a small crew scrambled to set their cameras.

Balog comes off as a man with a mission -- sharing his footage with TV newscasts, giving talks to climate change conferences and other interested groups, lighting that single candle rather than cursing.

PLOT Documentary chronicling proof of global climate change

RATING Not rated


BOTTOM LINE Powerful look at a very real phenomenon.


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