After making March of the Penguins, Academy Award- winning Writer/Director Luc Jacquet returned to Antarctica to shoot Ice and the Sky. In this film, we learn that Claude Lorius was drawn to return to the Antarctic just as you were.
Why is Antarctica so fascinating?
Living in the Antarctic gives you the feeling that you have to survive on your own. I really like the aesthetic point of view, the landscape and high geographic formations. It speaks to me very deeply. Perhaps also because the light changes all the time and because it is pure, since everything is white until the light changes just a bit, and the landscape hovers around you. It is absolutely incredible.
I also love it because it’s a challenge, much like trying to understand who you are in the middle of a storm. It is interesting. It presents the true scale of human vulnerability before nature. I also love the relationships that the people who live in Antarctica create. You have to have solidarity and you have to take care of those people around you.
Everyone who goes down there is drawn by the same fascination. Maybe this is the reason why people who have gone to Antarctica befriend other people who have been there. We share so many experiences.
Do you see any parallels between Claude Lorius’ life and yours?
Yes, there are many parallels. Even though Claude has got forty years on me, I first went to Antarctica for the same reason that he did. While I was a university student, I happened to read an ad looking for someone to live in Antarctica for a year. Like Claude, I found my vocation there by chance. For him it was science; for me it was filming. Most people go to Antarctica for the sake of adventure. But after the initial Antarctic experience, both Claude and I changed our plans and decided to do something different.
How did that change your life?
When you’re in Antarctica, you get the feeling that you are hovering above the planet Earth, and you get a powerful sense of empathy for the planet because you are so far away from society. When you do return to society, you feel compelled to take care of the planet.
People who have lived in a space station get the same feeling. It’s called “the overview effect”.
As Claude Lorius explains in your film,
a single air bubble can tell us everything about temperature, climate, and the im- pact of carbon emissions. So, has civilization also left its mark on Antarctica?
To find evidence there of human environmental impact means that we no longer have any choice. We are living on a raft, so we have to take into consideration the fact that everything has an impact somewhere else in the world. For me, this was the real revelation inspired
by Claude’s work. He said that if we burn something somewhere, it’s going to have an impact elsewhere. And no one, either rich or poor, is going to be spared. People have to take responsibility for their actions.
The scientific discoveries that Claude Lorius published in the mid-1980s could have made a difference, but his warnings went unheeded. Do you expect major policy changes at COP21?
Claude is optimistic because no one talked about global warming thirty years ago; today, everyone is aware of it. But this is not enough, despite the fact that there are many people in civil society who are committed to taking action. Of course, things are not going fast enough to reply successfully to the challenge of global warming. We have to create a new level of engagement. We need people who represent mankind instead of the presidents of certain individual nations. We have to go to the top to make decisions for all humankind, but this policy plateau doesn’t exist yet.
Is Ice and the Sky a call to action?
This is a political film. I am fed up with seeing the planet deteriorate while people do nothing. The older I get, the louder I want to shout it out. We have all the means to solve the prob- lem. We have the energy, the power, all the gadgets and machines, but we are still unable to solve the problem. I think this is the greatest challenge our generation faces.
What impact can films have?
Everyone is aware of what is happening around us, so now the problem is to con- nect people to this issue. I think it’s better to connect people to the issue emotionally. A well photographed story about an extraordi- nary man is better than repeating the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising. I’m trying to find a new way to connect people emotionally.
What approach is your non-profit organization Wild Touch taking?
We are conducting a lot of educational programs because, as part of a network of scientists, teachers, artists and filmmakers, we are able to find a common language to help young people and educators understand what we’re talking about when we talk about global warming. Marion Cotillard did the voice-over for the Ice and the Sky educational program
because it was important for her and because she wanted to do something for the planet. We also produced educational programs on forests. The next topic will be biodiversity.
Are you planning anything for COP21 in Paris?
I will be in Antarctica where we’ll be shoot ing a film with a crew of ten people. During COP21, we’re going to transmit live video of penguins from Antarctica every day. We’re going to screen it at the Bibliotheque François Mitterrand in Paris to raise awareness on both penguins and the emergency situation in Antarctica.
I will be there with two highly regarded French photographers: Laurent Ballesta who’s going to dive deep underwater with the penguins; and Vincent Murnier, who’ll take the high ground. They can get absolutely amazing shots. Emotion and the power of the image will raise awareness during COP21. The projection screen is more than 60 meters high, so it will be a towering image.
Photos ©Eskward Wild Touch/Luc Jacquet