Writer Kitty Bertrand had the chance to interview documentary filmmaker Iva Radibojevic on her new documentary, Utuqaq. Using the medium of film, Radibojevic explores the impact of climate change through a Greenlandic lens, showcasing the beauty of its landscape, and following four researchers as they embark on an expedition in subzero temperatures.
What inspired you to create this documentary?
I was approached by the Rutgers Film Lab and asked to join the scientists on their expedition to Greenland – the goal of which was to make an experimental document of their work there.
What was the main message you wanted to get across?
I wasn’t trying to convey a message per se, but more the feeling of being in this landscape and how precious it is.
What did you want to communicate with the music or lack thereof?
I wanted to tune in the otherworldliness of the landscape and the experience. We landed in this expansive white nothingness with no people, no cars, no animals or birds. Just ice. And us. The environment had a sci-fi quality to it, but also spiritual. Transporting.
What about the way it was filmed do you think emphasised your message?
Prior to going to the ice sheet, the landscape was described to me as lunar, otherworldly. I had thought of the scientists as these visitors who are being themselves observed, by another power or being. They are foreign to the landscape. And so the scientists become the observed, the studied. Reversing the traditional role. The film is narrated through the point of view of nature, the point of view of the ice itself. It attempts to speak on behalf of nature.
Was it difficult to film in such conditions?
We were to set up camp and tents and spend five weeks on the ice sheet, changing locations a few times. The biggest challenge was getting used to the weather. The first evening we set up our tents it was -30⁰C, the coldest temperature I had ever experienced. It was excruciating and I thought I had made a huge mistake. But you slowly learn how to behave in the cold and what your needs are, what you can do and what you can’t. Depending on how cold or windy it was, I could only stay outside in short bursts. My fingers would freeze up really fast. The camera batteries had to be permanently held close to my body in a warm place/pocket, otherwise they would immediately die. The camera itself had a jacket. The whole setup was quite cumbersome. On the windiest days there was no use trying to set up a tripod. But there were also days that were sunny and warm, and then I would get lost in the patterns the storm had designed in the snow. All of those components were fascinating to me (the cold, the wind, the patterns) and I chose to concentrate on those.
Watch Iva Radibojevic’s documentary Utuqaq at: Field of Vision – Utuqaq