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‘Exposure’ Takes Viewers to Climate Change Ground Zero
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Thursday, March 31, 2022
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY RENAN OZTURK

A mirthful Muslim chaplain, a shy French marine biologist and a defiant Qatari princess seem unlikely candidates to ski across the melting Arctic Sea ice to the North Pole.

But against all odds these and eight other women achieved their goal, their story chronicled in the new documentary film “Exposure.”

“This could be the last team ever to make an over-ice expedition to the top of the world because the Arctic Sea ice is degrading every year,” said filmmaker Holly Morris.

“The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the polar season in 2020 and 2021. And the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has meant that ice station Barneo, which sits in one of the northernmost inhabited places on Earth, cannot be built, cancelling all attempts at the Pole.”

“Exposure” will be screened at 7 tonight—Thursday, March 31—at the Sun Valley Opera House as part of the Sun Valley Film Festival. Holly Morris and others will field questions following its Idaho premiere. The screening is open to Film Festival passholders or to those who purchase individual tickets at www.sunvalleyfilmfestival.org or at The Argyros, which is serving as the box office for the Film Festival.

The 100-kilometer expedition in April 2018 was instigated by explorer Felicity Aston, a British explorer who was the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica, a journey of 1,744 kilometers that took 59 days. She proposed taking an expedition of women from the Arab World and the West skiing to the North Pole. And Morris was quick to sign on.

“Given the climate crisis, I knew this team might be the last to have a real shot at reaching the North Pole. It was definitely the toughest production I’ve been involved in but the cinematographers—Kathryn Barrows and Ingeborg Jakobsen--were amazing,” said Morris.

The three spent three years following the women from training in the 105-degree desert of the Arab World to making the trek at temperatures of 39-below in the Arctic.

The 11 women explorers chosen to take part in the expedition were not only inexperienced but they weren’t even athletes.

“Part of the bedrock values of this film was that as women we can do more than we think we’re capable of, and that comes through in the film,” said Morris. “These women came together to achieve something no one thought could happen.”

To prepare, Morris climbed the stairs of skyscrapers in New York City. A woman who lived in the desert of Oman trained in a freezer. And a woman in England pulled tires through the streets of Manchester.

The women encountered everything from polar bear threats and 60-mile-per-hour winds to frostbite. And they dealt with self-doubt and cultural conflicts.  

There were no dogsled teams or snowmobiles to haul gear. Instead, the women pulled sledges full of equipment behind their skis.

The two camera women strapped camera batteries to their body to keep the batteries as warm as possible. They removed mittens only when necessary, always being careful to leave gloves on for protection. It was difficult mic-ing the women when they were so covered up, and the camera women had to deal with the constant hiss of camp stoves which couldn’t be turned off because they were the difference between life and death.

Flying a drone camera proved problematic because being so far north messed with the GPS magnetic north.

“We see a scene in the movie where the ice runway broke in half. The Russians were using a drone to see the crack and they kept losing it because of the magnetic interference,” Morris said.

Having the cooperation of the Russians was vital, said Morris. They not only dropped the team onto the ice and picked them up at the end but they served as rescuers during emergencies, although that became problematic when they were unable to fly one team member out with frostbite after the runway broke apart.

“Every year they build an ice runway out there so planes bringing expedition scientists can land,” Morris said. “We were the last group to go.”

Morris said it was chilling traveling over ice that was crumbling beneath them.

“We all know climate change is happening, but seeing people trying to cross open water, seeing ice crack in half really brings climate change to life. Sometimes we view it in the abstract, non-emotionally. This film is extremely emotional.”

This certainly wasn’t Morris’s first expedition. She has been a presenter on the PBS travel series GlobeTrekker and Adventure Divas, which took her around the world, including Borneo where she hunted for wild boar with tribesmen and Switzerland where she climbed the Matterhorn short-roped to a fourth-generation Swiss guide.

She reported about the Iran’s illegal caviar trade for National Geographic Explorer and India’s sex trafficking trade for PBS.

Her feature film “The Babushkas of Chernobyl,” about a defiant community of women who live inside Ukraine’s radioactive Exclusion Zone, won the Jury Award for Directing at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the One-in-a-Million Award at the Sun Valley Film festival.

Morris is done with the North Pole for now, hoping that her next film will involve shooting in less extreme temperatures. But she hopes “Exposure” will help others come to see that regular people can achieve something remarkable.

“When women believe in themselves it can be catalytic,” she said. “My hope is that this will light a fire under women in terms of leadership, especially climate action.”


 

 

 

 

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