Filmmaker Scott Ressler has traveled the globe covering environmental stories for the National Geographic Society for over a decade. In 2008 he became the documentary producer for Pristine Seas, a film and photographic project to highlight the last wild places in the ocean. He frequently came into contact with Inuit communities living in the Arctic between Canada and Greenland. As Ressler came to know these communities who have been living in the Artic since the last ice age, he realized that they have a unique perspective to share on climate change. Through this, THE LAST ICE, Ressler’s first feature-length documentary, first screened this year at the Mountain Film Festival, was born.
THE LAST ICE is a beautifully complex film that juxtaposes a universal story of Arctic ice’s disappearance with a very personal story of the disappearance of an Inuit hunter-gatherer way of life. The film combines majestic and intimate cinematography with a unique interplay of historical and factual footage about the recent history of people and place in the Arctic. The film’s perspective is shared by Inuk musician and hunter Aleqatsiaq Peary and Inuit youth advocate Maatalii Okalik, themselves part of a generation torn between two worlds. As Maatalii and Aleqatsiaq share the stories of their family histories, Ressler skillfully weaves the brutal colonial history of the Arctic and Inuit people in between scenes. Here, the director builds a messy and complicated picture of the history of capitalism and the nation state in this region. Maatalii and Aleqatsiaq are a part of a generation who themselves have in some way been raised in the contemporary world and, at the same time, know that their identity as people is deeply rooted in the traditions of their ancestral past. They are responsible for taking on the task of generational healing and shaping the future for generations to come.
The film follows Maatalii and Aleqatsiaq’s very intimate exploration of these themes against the backdrop of increasing extractivist economic opportunities arising from ice melt. Oil, gas, tourism, faster shipping routes are all new economic opportunities for corporate and national enterprises seeking to take advantage of these newly opened waterways.
For the Inuit, the psychological, ecological, and emotional impact of colonialism has barely settled as they turn their attention to the future. How will a new opportunistic economic onslaught affect their environment and their renewed cultural ways of being in the world? Maatalii and Aleqatsiaq share their experiences of generating hope in what often looks like a hopeless situation. This film is about being committed to the social and environmental education of the next generation. It is a film about reclaiming one’s Indigenous lifeways and remaining connected to a place. The film highlights what the Inuit, who have lived in the Arctic for 10,000 years, can teach us about climate change, reconnecting to one’s ecological environment through a connection of people and culture to place.
THE LAST ICE is streaming on NatGeo TV and is available for rent on VUDU.