At a Chasing Ice Preview Screening

I was lucky enough on Tuesday night to get to go to a preview Screening of James Balog's film Chasing Ice at the wonderful Curzon Soho cinema

After it ended I was on the stage with the incredible polar photographer Nick Cobbing, the wonderful polar experienced and influenced artist Michèle Noach, and the Greenpeace Senior Climate Advisor Charlie Kronick. I know that is a bit effusive - but hey follow the links to Michèle and Nick and draw your own conclusions.

"Chasing Ice" discussion
From Left to right: Nick Cobbing Michèle Noach, Me and Charlie Kronick. Pic by Chris Brunner

I am not in the film reviewing game - but I have stood and watched a few glaciers in my time, so with Charlie Kronick rather excellently chairing a conversation, he first invited each of us to give some thoughts on what we had seen before opening the discussion up to general audience questions.

My thoughts? Take it as read (as you can see from the trailer), the photography is incredible, and the time lapse shots are at turns breathtaking, exciting and to be honest - as Michèle pointed out, a bit sad. The film shows one of the most amazing glacier calving sequences I have ever seen followed closely by time lapse sequences showing glacier retreat and decay.

But to me it is a film about obsession as much as ice - that is Balog's obsession to push his filming idea forward. I don't think that is a bad thing. Many people in society are obsessed by something and it's nice for me to see someone obsessed by ice. This theme was really brought home when something they tried did not work: Balog shows more emotion than I ever would - but boy I recognized his feelings.

It is also a film about dynamicism and movement. Ice is thought by many people in temperate climates to be static; after all "frozen" can mean stuck. But if you work in the ice with seasonal temperature changes of 30°C, it is a stunningly dynamic environment. With his time lapses Balog shows ice in a way many people could not have comprehended. It races, it chases and... it retreats.

Even the title "Chasing Ice" echoes chasing other natural and more dynamic features such as tornados.

There isn't too much science pushed in the film and the visuals speak for themselves. There are some excellent animations of how glaciers and ice sheets "work", and the science in the background is of the highest quality. The "on camera" advisors are Tad Pfeffer and Jason Box with the key ice to climate links made by Martin Sharp. If you want to question the portrayal of what is happening follow the links to those three researchers and see what they have done. The bottom line is they know what they are talking about, and that means it is robust.

Do I have to have a "however...."?

If I have a gripe it is that a couple of times James Balog says that the "physics and chemistry of the atmosphere is changing" in response to human carbon emmisions. Well, the chemical consituents are changing - and the atmosphere is obeying physical laws. One issue that made my teeth grate in 76 minutes. It is not much is it.

Charlie opened the discussion up to the audience and a 30 minute conversation rushed by with many contributers making some brilliant points. It was not a gloomy discussion or preachy and I that is partially down to Charlie Kronick chairing it well.

Chasing Ice goes on general release this Friday 14th December and it gets a strong recommend from me. It is well worth making the effort to see it on the big screen.

It is short film but the impact is big.

A big thanks to Patrick at Dogwoof for the opportunity to take part in the preview and discussion, thanks to Laura at the Curzon Soho for making it a great experience, and thanks to my co-panellists Michèle. Nick, and Charlie for their very insightful comments. I learned a lot.

boat in front of a glacier
Boating in front of the Harker Glacier, South Georgia.

Stop press: This published on the Atlantic today: A clip of the giant calving event I talk about above.