Private Project


As the polar ice cap melts, reaching the North Pole has become increasingly dangerous. Yet an unlikely expedition of women - including a mirthful Muslim chaplain, a shy French scientist, a defiant Qatari princess, and 8 others - have set an audacious goal of skiing to the pole. Exposure follows the team as they train over 2 years, and finally reach the high Arctic, where they navigate open leads of water, polar bear threats, and -40 degree temperatures in an extraordinary story of resilience and global citizenry.

  • Holly Morris
    The Babushkas of Chernobyl, Adventure Divas
  • Katy Drake Bettner
    Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, Dark Money , The infiltrators, Always in Season
  • Jill Mazursky
    David Crosby: Remember My Name Love Means Zero, Oscar-nominated documentary Keep On Keepin’ On, and The Babushkas of Chernobyl
  • Sarah Cavanaugh
    Cooked, Camp 72, Even Though the Whole World is Burning
  • Susan Capitelli
  • Rebecca Cleary
  • Jason Blum
  • Kim Cleworth
  • Jeremy Gold
  • Mary Lisio
  • Amber Sakai
  • Nancy P. Sanders
  • Amanda Spain
  • Marci Wiseman
  • Penelope Falk
    Running with Beto, Recovery Boys, Step, Bright Lights, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Maidentrip, The New Public
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Adventure, Environment
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 27 minutes 59 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 16, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    900,380 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Iceland, Norway, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Holly Morris

For two decades Holly Morris has told, and championed, pro-woman stories on the global stage. She is an internationally-known filmmaker, author, and presenter (Adventure Divas, Globe Trekker). Her most recent film, The Babushkas of Chernobyl ("Beautiful, affectionate and stirring"– NYT) premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award for Directing, the first of nearly two dozen awards received before being broadcast world-wide. The film’s story, based on her print journalism, is about a defiant community of women who live inside Ukraine’s radioactive “Exclusion Zone,” also forms the basis of her popular TED Talk.

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Director Statement

A MI-8 helicopter drops us at 3 AM, -39°F, roughly 89 degrees North. After the sound of its whining Soviet-era blades disappears into the distance, we quickly strap on harnesses and begin pulling the sledges laden with 200 pounds of gear, freeze dried food – and chocolate. Immediately it’s frighteningly hard – fogged goggles dash visibility and frozen fingers make changing lavalier mics impossible. Each breath feels like a blade to the throat.

Would my months of sneaking into NYC high-rises for brutal stair climb workouts, and pulling a tire in the dawn hour around a Brooklyn park pay off?

Would the Russian bosses of Ice Station Barneo, who’d been busting my production chops for months, continue to spike my blood pressure higher than polar bear threat?

Telling the stories of women in extreme situations, framed by environmental devastation, is a career-long passion for me. As in my previous feature film, The Babushkas of Chernobyl, Exposure explores bonds built between women and the self-reliance and determination that come from taking risk and moving beyond what’s thought possible. I feel that a catalytic alchemy is created when women, together, overcome.

But it’s fair to say - as we struggled over a dangerous semi-frozen Arctic Ocean, camera batteries strapped to our warm-ish bodies to keep them from dying - ideology sometimes went astray. Throughout 4 years of production and boot-strap fundraising, a quote on my mother’s wall throughout my childhood frequently flashed through my mind: “Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.”

Nobody had ever attempted such an ambitious North Pole production. No dogs. No snowmobiles. No support. No men. The vision: All vérité. No narration. Multiple 4K cameras, including a drone and 360 units. Limited budget. All to be captured by our film team of 3: myself and heroic extreme conditions cinematographers Ingeborg Jakobsen and Kathryn Barrows.

A lot went wrong.

When it did, I tried to remember the film’s underlying values. At a time when the concerns of girls and women around the world are finally being taken seriously, visible role models of achievement and empowerment are crucial, and hold the power to resonate with viewers whether they are in Western democracies, theocratic Kingdoms, or developing nations. In the era of nationalism and xenophobia, relations between the West and the Muslim East are strained, yet the cross-cultural teamwork proves that exploration is not the domain of one nation, one tradition, or one gender. And that when it comes to problem-solving on a grand scale, these ordinary women, and their extraordinary achievement, show that diversity is a true strength.

And then there is the climate crisis. Thin ice cracking beneath the team’s skis create sickeningly tense moments; polar exploration makes the existential threat of climate change vivid and real. The season in which we filmed had record-low sea ice extant. “In a few years we’d have to swim to the North Pole,” remarked Cypriot team member Stephanie as looked over another daunting open lead of water.

I understood from the start that this unprecedented expedition would be a first in so many ways - indeed 5 women became first from their nations to reach the pole – but I didn’t know that that it would a last. As it turns out, this team will likely be the last, ever, to reach the North Pole. The season after their expedition, climate change and geopolitical conflict between Ukraine and Russia meant ice station Barneo could not be built, cancelling all attempts at the pole. Then, in 2020, COVID-19 – a scourge likely rooted in environmental collapse - wiped out the polar season before it even started.

But as with The Babushkas of Chernobyl, and like the story of Exposure, from tough and beautiful environs marked by struggle, are borne stories story of affirmation, hope and potential. In the end, I hope these are the ideas that become the film’s real True North.

And let us never underestimate the power of a good adventure! - Holly Morris