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On Thin Ice: The People of the North

Alaska’s Iñupiat people forage on frozen seas with one caribou skin boot in the 21st century, and the other in the Stone Age. Sometimes, they harpoon dinner much as their ancestors did—only now they reach their hunting grounds by snowmobile and navigate by GPS instead of the stars.

The Iñupiat of Alaska’s North Slope – and the Inuvialuit of Canada’s Northwest Territories – dwell at the boundaries of a past and present colliding like tectonic plates in the earth’s crust. Every year, the aftershocks grow more intense.

But it is not just the shock from new technologies clashing with ancient ways that is disrupting their lives, it is climate shock. Each new summer brings the ocean closer to their doorsteps. Temperatures are climbing. The ice is dwindling. By the summer of 2030, scientists predict the Arctic Ocean will be open water.

Could the drum dance and whale hunts disappear with the Arctic’s melting permafrost? CCTV America’ Sean Callebs and Andrew Smith trudged, snowmobiled and dogsledded their way across frozen Arctic tundra – in minus 20°C temperatures – to show a global TV audience what the Arctic’s indigenous peoples have known for decades. Their way of life is danger, which means so is ours.

  • Sean Callebs
    Writer
  • Sean Callebs
    Producer
  • Hakan Ozsancak
    Producer
  • Ma Jing
    Producer
  • Mei Yan
    Producer
  • Guo Chun
    Producer
  • Andrew Smith
    Photography
  • Daniel Zatz
    Photography
  • Don Stanke
    Photography
  • Bai Fan
    Photography
  • Wang Fenghua
    Photography
  • Andrew Smith
    Editing
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Television
  • Genres:
    documentary, news, arctic, climate change, global warming, Alaska, Canada, environmental
  • Runtime:
    52 minutes 37 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 10, 2015
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada, United States
  • Shooting Format:
    XDCAM
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
Director