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Into the Dark cover image

Into the Dark 2020

Highly Recommended

Distributed by New Day Films, 350 North Water Street Unit 1-12, Newburgh, NY 12550; 888-367-9154
Produced by Eli Kintisch and Michael O. Snyder
Directed by Michael O. Snyder
Streaming, 28 mins

College - General Adult
Earth Sciences; Global Warming; Marine Sciences

Date Entered: 08/22/2022

Reviewed by Abbey B. Lewis, STEM Learning & Collections Librarian, University of Colorado Boulder

It’s one thing to read a groundbreaking study in a highly regarded scientific journal, but it’s another to watch that study take place in front of your eyes. In a brief and dramatic twenty-eight minutes, Into the Dark immerses viewers into an exploration of changes in light under the sea caused by melting polar ice. Tiny amounts of light creep into the ocean during the time of year when the sun does not rise above the arctic circle, known as polar night, due to artificial light from human activity, exacerbated by declining cover from rapidly disappearing ice. This affects the behavior of marine life, potentially influencing entire ecosystems, as well as the accuracy of the science that’s intended to study species which thrive in darkness.

The film uses an immersive approach that makes for fantastic and visually appealing storytelling. There’s a science-fictiony feel as scientists describe how little is known about polar night and the organisms living in dark water. The ship itself, covered in lights and packed full of instrumentation, might as well be headed into outer space, but considerations like a gun for fending off polar bears reminds us that this is our own planet. We see researchers move around the ship and prod impressive arrays of gadgetry while interviews explain the importance of this work and how it will build upon or even contradict previous knowledge of life in the Arctic Ocean. So few people get to conduct research in settings like this and yet, we’re all there, right there, wondering what we as humans can learn.

The researchers themselves occupy a unique space in the film, fleshed out as real people in ways they cannot be behind the curtain of a research article. Viewers hear about the fixations and fascinations that have led them to study polar night, what they think of their own experiences on the boat, what lends the greatest sense of urgency to their work, and what they hope others see in their endeavors. Jørgen Berge’s descriptions of the silence and darkness that he experiences while afloat on an auxiliary vessel are moving and eerie. We gain as much from his pauses when gathering his thoughts as we do from moments when he speaks them. Back in the larger ship’s lab, David McKee gleefully reacts to having “half a dozen good ones” in a tiny sample of ocean water. The graph that he’s describing on a computer screen is barely visible in the stark artificial light of the ship’s interior, but witnessing his excitement is enough.

New Day Films has taken an already remarkable film and further developed it as a teaching tool with a study guide on their website. There are discussion questions, interviews with filmmakers and scientists, articles from various mass media outlets, and a follow-up video series that are all suitable for further exploration by undergraduate students. This is a rich resource for biology and environmental science educators and an enjoyable film for anyone.

Decade of Change Award, Winner, British Journal of Photography, 2021; Winner, Best Editing, Columbia Film Festival, 2020; Winner, Best Cinematography, Columbia Film Festival, 2020; Winner, Best Documentary, Honorable Mention, ARFF International Film Festival, 2020; Screened to the international delegation at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.