A documentary which looks at climate change through the lens of people living near the Great Lakes has made its public Canadian premiere in Tecumseh.
The screening of Project: Ice, hosted by the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, drew a near-full theatre Thursday at Lakeshore Cinema.
Writer-director William Kleinert shot the film between March 2011 and July 2013. Kleinert grew up in Cleveland and spent his childhood engaging in activities like fishing and sailing in the Great Lakes.
Project: Ice is about the role ice coverage on the lakes has played in supporting recreation, shipping and tourism. It covers history from the last ice age 30,000 years ago to the present, with a focus beginning in 1850.
Kleinert, who now lives in Washington, D.C., said the film began as a telling of the story of ice breaking on the Great Lakes, but the team began incorporating the theme of climate change after speaking with people affected by it.
“We very intentionally didn’t want to have a very overtly political film,” said Kleinert, who lived 16 years in Michigan, including four in Detroit. “We still tell a good, honest, hard-hitting story, but we tell it using real people from throughout the Great Lakes region who are having their own experiences today with climate change.”
Several people who appear in the film say the ice on their area of the Great Lakes doesn’t last as long as it did several years ago.
Science advisor Henry Pollack, a geophysicist from the University of Michigan, explains in the film that these changes were largely caused by humans as civilizations progressed and energy consumption grew. He says these actions weren’t done with “malice” but humans now have the responsibility to reverse some of these changes.
“I think another part of the takeaway is understanding those consequences of our carbon-based economy and getting people to think more carefully about the alternatives and those who already embraced that thinking to give it further consideration,” said Kleinert.
The film was primarily shot in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota with a focus on Lakes Superior and Michigan.
While the Windsor and Essex County area is not featured directly, an animated map represents the Port of Windsor and the area’s industrial economy. Lake Erie is also an important part of a section on blue-green algae blooms.
A panel discussion following the screening, which included Kleinert, Pollack and City of Windsor supervisor of environmental sustainability and climate change Karina Richters, acknowledged both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 winters saw frigid temperatures and high ice coverage in Lakes St. Clair and Erie.
However, Pollack said it’s important to look at the climate globally rather than regionally and over a longer period of time.
“One has to be cautious in thinking that what we experience locally is happening everywhere,” said Pollack, who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Shot and finished in 4K resolution, Kleinert said he wanted the film to have as much of an impact visually as it does in its message.
“I’m passionate about the Great Lakes, and I’m passionate about the environment and to be able to share that with people who haven’t had the opportunity to see that was a major goal,” he said.
Kleinert said he’s looking to secure funding to create a shorter version of the film which can be broadcast on television and eventually have a Blu-Ray and DVD release.