As the Arctic polar ice cap melts, reaching the North Pole has become increasingly dangerous. Yet an expedition of ordinary women from the Arab World and the West strap on skis and haul heaving sledges toward true North, against all odds and polar advice.
Holly Morris and her all-women film crew capture it all, from frostbite and polar bear threats, to sexism and self-doubt in this intimate story of resilience, survival and global citizenry — on what may be the last-ever expedition to the top of the world.
A North Pole attempt requires years of preparation and training. To prepare their bodies and minds, the film crew and the entire Euro-Arabian team dragged sledges across the desert of Arabia and Icelandic glaciers. From Manchester, U.K., to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, they climbed skyscrapers and pulled truck tires through the streets. They dunked in frigid glacial waters then rolled in snow to learn how to survive hypothermia and frostbite, should the worst happen: the Arctic sea ice cracks open beneath them.
But learning to navigate and survive in a polar environment wasn’t the only obstacle. This team of women skied the same icy terrain as the rarified community of veteran polar explorers and scientists – a field of predominantly white men. At many points in the journey, their “place at the table” was in question. The Expedition team represented the nations of Slovenia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, France, and the U.K., working through profound differences in language, religion, communication and culture to achieve a singular, common goal. In the end, four team members, including Sheikha Asma Al Thani of Qatar, became the first ever from their nations to ski to the North Pole.
The film crew, too, flipped the switch on the historically male-dominated expedition genre, by creating an intimate story of relationships inside a suspenseful adventure story—all without the need for voice-over narration. To do this, the faced a mountain of technical training and trial and error to prepare to film under extreme polar conditions. On location, one director and two cinematographers, with no dogs, no snowmobiles, and no craft services, traded off shooting, pulling sledges packed with hundreds of pounds of equipment, and strapping camera batteries to their bodies to keep them from dying at 39 below. Grappling with the incessant hiss of camp stoves to try to capture clean audio was its own kind of difficult, but ensuring that the story could be told verité, in the women’s own voices, was essential to the story.
EXPOSURE is a gorgeous, adrenaline-laced documentary about strong women and the degrading climate. But the film also ignites in audiences and expeditioners alike a passion for what’s possible when we push past our fears and open ourselves to change. The film invites us to imagine a world of women, believing in themselves and taking the reins, working across boundaries of all kinds, and leading us into a future where we adapt, with compassion and equity, to the challenges ahead.