UN summons Canadian climate doc

Mark Terry never expected to get an official invitation to screen his ecological documentary The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning at this month's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
December 2, 2009

Mark Terry never expected to get an official invitation to screen his ecological documentary The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning at this month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The veteran docmaker merely hoped to get a pass to conduct interviews for a follow-up film. But within six hours of receiving Antarctica, organizers summoned Terry to present the film to attendees at the international event taking place from Dec. 7 to Dec. 18, to be attended by climate groups and world leaders including U.S. president Barack Obama and prime minister Stephen Harper.

‘I hope it helps provide world leaders with enough information to come up with a climate change policy that benefits all life on earth,’ Terry said, as he was prepping to head to the conference alongside Ontario environment minister John Gerretsen.

The Toronto native had both a personal and professional reason for making a film about Antarctica, shot over 30 days late last year on the continent’s West coast. Terry was turning 50 that year, and wanted to do something ‘unique’ for the milestone. It was also the only continent he had never set foot on. His list of credits includes documentary features Earth’s Natural Wonders and Mysteries of Sacred Sites, airing on Discovery.

When the U.N. put out a call to the world scientific community to head to the poles to study climate change, coinciding with International Polar Year, Terry had found his professional reason. He headed to Antarctica with a three-member crew, and began interviewing scientists who were stationed in Antarctica and elsewhere.

The one-hour HD film has a ‘crucial message,’ according to Terry, as it explores the impact of rapid glacier melting – which is adding massive amounts of water to the world’s sea levels – and species on the verge of extinction. Antarctica also contains archival footage of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s first scientific expedition 100 years ago, and features an interview with his granddaughter.

The film, which will screen continuously throughout the conference, is also being released in roughly 100 European theatres via Belgium’s XDC Digital Cinemas. German distributor ZDF is working on worldwide television sales. In Canada, CBC has first-window broadcast rights for Antarctica, which has aired on its documentary channel. PBS is handling DVD sales in the U.S., though the film has yet to find an American broadcaster.

Meanwhile, the docmaker is currently working on a four-part mini, Mark Terry’s Antarctica.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.