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From one Pole to the other

Haystack Rock Awareness Program volunteer hopes to make annual event
By Brenna Visser

The Daily Astorian

Published on April 4, 2018 2:06PM

Parade to celebrate the return of Adm. Robert Byrd  in a scene from “Byrd 1933.”

Pamela Theodotou

Parade to celebrate the return of Adm. Robert Byrd in a scene from “Byrd 1933.”

Admiral Byrd in a scene from “Byrd 1933.”

Pamela Theodotou

Admiral Byrd in a scene from “Byrd 1933.”

Scene from “Guliya.”

Pamela Theodotou

Scene from “Guliya.”

For two days in March, the Antarctic came to Cannon Beach.

Science and film enthusiasts came out to see the debut of the climate films “Guliya” and “Byrd 1933” at the Coaster Theatre.

The films, which center around scientific research done at the south pole and Guliya Ice Cape in Tibet, were the first in what organizer and Haystack Rock Awareness Program volunteer Cynthia Bryden hopes become the Rockdance Film Festival, an annual festival to encourage through the arts environmental awareness in the Pacific Northwest and improved health for the planet. All donations went to benefit the Haystack Rock Awareness Program.

“I am an oceanographer, marine biologist and geologist .... climate change has been a continuous concern for me, our planet and all it’s living creatures. I first saw the film ‘Chasing Ice’ premiered at Sundance and wanted to screen that environmental climate film or something equally as good,” Bryden said.

Film Producer and Director Pamela Theodotou, based out of the Ohio State University Byrd Polar Climate Research Center, was at the showing and explained how she blended her scientific background with her passion for filmmaking. Theodotou, who has a background in both biology and law, got involved with doing film work for the center after she had just finished her masters degree in fine art in filmmaking. An ecologist friend at the time asked her to tag along to take photos of her while she was at the center, and Theodotou instantly was enthralled with polar research.

“I was enraptured with what they do,” she said.

“Byrd 1933” is a historic film following the expedition of Admiral Richard Byrd, who, with a large crew of men, sled dogs and other various livestock, explored the south pole for two years in the 1930s. What makes this film unusual, Theodotou said, is that everything viewers see is made from the original, salvageable footage. Before Theodotou’s project began, the old reels were slotted to be disposed of because of its deterioration and possibly safety hazards that come with decomposing film strips.

“It’s uncommon to make movies with such old film, mostly because it’s a treacherous process to work with it,” she said. “The cost is high to conserve and preserve old films.”

The other short movie, “Guliya,” was about the “third pole,” otherwise known as the Guliya Ice Cap in Tibet. Other than the two poles, it harbors some of the oldest ice in the world, as well as serves a source of water for more than 4 million people in the region.

While Theodotou was unable to go on the expedition herself due to danger and capacity, a research volunteered to take the footage that viewers see on their screens — all on an iPhone.

“You forget it was shot on a phone the footage is so beautiful,” she said.

This film centered around one dangerous expedition to extract an ice core more than half a million years old. This unusual sample has provided dramatic evidence of climate change such as a recent and rapid temperature rise at some of the highest, coldest mountain peaks in the world.

“I hope (the audience) is inspired, because that’s whole reason I do work like this,” Theodotou said. “It might inspire them to embrace science. It might inspire them to understand climate change. It might inspire them simply to appreciate the aesthetic of this kind of film.”


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