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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chasing Ice is an award-winning documentary about the work of celebrated photographer James Balog in tracking glacier retreat. It introduces scientific terms related to climate change and presents one side of the global warming debate, aiming to convince viewers of the looming threat of warming temperatures. There are moments of anger, frustration, and sadness as the subjects brave harsh elements and technological failures to complete their work, but the lengths to which they will go for the truth is inspiring. Language ("s--t," "fricking," "Jesus Christ") is minimal, as are viewers' exposure to scenes of splayed and bloody animal carcasses being prepared after a hunt.
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What's the story?
CHASING ICE chronicles the arduous work of National Geographic photographer James Balog and his team to document the decline of some of the world's most massive glaciers in Greenland and Alaska. As the debate over global warming rages, the world's glaciers are shrinking at a rapid rate, leaving rivers and rising water levels in their wake. Using a series of cutting-edge automated cameras positioned around vulnerable areas, Balog's Extreme Ice Survey creates time-lapse evidence of the retreat of these ancient ice masses.
Is it any good?
Whatever your stance on the climate change debate, this stellar documentary is well worth watching, and Balog's passion for his life's work is inspiring. The film devotes more time to following the ups and downs of Balog's quest than it does to lecturing viewers on the dangers of fossil fuels, but its ultimate message is clear: Global warming is causing glaciers to disappear at a frightening rate, and the effects on the world's population could be devastating. He makes a firm case for his claims, presenting remarkable photographic evidence of ice masses -- some nearly as large as Manhattan -- succumbing to the elements and being lost forever to the sea.
Chances are your kids won't find Chasing Ice's subject matter particularly fascinating unless they have some familiarity with the issues already, but the opposite is true for older viewers. You'll come away from it thinking hard about the environmental issues that plague our planet and our role in maintaining its well-being for generations to come, which can spark great discussions and possibly take-action projects within your family and community.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about climate change and other environmental issues. Balog presents one side of the argument in Chasing Ice, but what is the other? On which side of the fence do you fall? Can you find fault with any of the subjects' findings?
Explore the nature of propaganda. Who uses it and for what purpose? Is any information that we get through media sources entirely reliable? Why or why not?
What small changes can your family make to be more environmentally conscious? What kind of an impact would it have if your community got on board as well? Is this something the government should mandate?
- In theaters: April 22, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: September 10, 2013
- Cast: James Balog
- Director: Jeff Orlowski
- Studio: National Geographic
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance
- Run time: 74 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.