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Sundance 2012: Documentaries dominate

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Despite the dangerousness of his dissidence, Ai still manages to enjoy several good meals in this documentary. Suggested blurb: "This film made me very angry – and very hungry."

Chasing Ice is a documentary by Jeff Orlowski about global warming unlike any others I've seen. (Weatherwise, my Sundance experience could be characterized as "Chased by Ice." If only Redford had been a surfer instead of a skier, we might all be watching movies in Kauai.) National Geographic photographer James Balog created the Extreme Ice Survey, in which 30 cameras across three continents record irrefutable evidence of the Earth's melting ice. The sped-up results of this survey have a harrowing power that no set of graphs or stack of statistics can convey. Looking fit as a mountaineer, Balog, at the public screening, spun a cautionary rap. "Carbon fuels used to be our best friend, but now we need new ways of thinking about the world. It's outrageous that the air we share is used as a garbage dump."

As a blood-stirrer, the film is right up there with another Sundance entry, We're Not Broke, which delineates how multibillion-dollar American corporations get away with legally paying virtually no US income taxes. Sundance, of course, is heavily sponsored by corporate underwriters, an irony not lost on Redford. "What I tell them," he said in an interview, "is that it's wonderful to have your support, so long as you don't intrude on our mission. The people that are sponsors are supporting something they believe in. But that something is independence."

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