Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2012. Exposure, Diamond Docs. Screenplay by Mark Monroe. Cinematography by Jeff Orlowski. Produced by Jerry Aronson, Jeff Orlowski. Music by J. Ralph. Film Editing by Davis Coombe. Academy Awards 2012.
After a successful career as commercial photographer, James Balog found he wished to reveal something vital about human existence using his camera and not just make pretty pictures. That opportunity presented itself when a burgeoning awareness about climate change and the controversies surrounding it led him to begin making gorgeous images of the icier regions of the planet. What he also discovered on his travels, however, was that many of these sections of frozen earth are undergoing rapid disintegration, with the likelihood of catastrophic results for human existence on the planet if the contributing factors (namely carbon emissions) are not slowed down or reversed. Understanding that the issue is mired in (mostly unnecessary) human debate, Balog initiated a fascinating and bold project, setting up weather-resistant cameras in Greenland, Alaska and Iceland programmed to take photographs periodically over time with the results showing the increasingly rapid melting of glaciers that are raising the ocean levels around the globe. Following him everywhere with a movie camera is director Jeff Orlowski, who documents the struggles of this project (nailing a camera into the side of an icy cliff in the middle of nowhere turns out to be challenging, and many cameras die in the process) but also its convoluted triumph. Showing the photographs to people and hoping to lessen the debate with actual proof (which shows, to my mind, an incredible underestimation of human stupidity) results in a powerful impact for the audiences who see his pictures, but also reveals a devastating truth. Despite nothing but gorgeous imagery for ninety minutes, it’s a very hard film to watch given that it delivers mostly bad news (punctuated by a weirdly chosen end song performed by Scarlet Johansson about dying early, which at that point is threatening overkill of the message); it doesn’t have the presence of Al Gore offering hopeful and helpful solutions for being a part of the change, but this film is certainly edifying and necessary viewing for all.