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91 minutes | Antarctica | 2021

Kathy Kasic, Director


An international team of scientists embarks on a perilous mission to explore a lake buried 3,600 feet beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Their success hinges on the performance of their custom-built hot-water drill and their ability to work as a team in the harshest climate on the planet. As they struggle against the ferocity of the ice and wind to unravel mysteries buried deep under Antarctica, they consider how our relationship with nature – and with one another — will impact humanity’s future and the future of all life on our rapidly changing planet.


Co-Creation: Director and Cinematographer, Kathy Kasic, is a Co-Principal Investigator on the National Science Foundation grant that funded the research featured in the film, as well as an integral part of the research team. The film strikes at the heart of the co-creation movement, to develop work that emerges out of a process and evolves from within communities. Co-creation provides an alternative to the single-author vision to develop ideas from concept within the community. The community here is a scientific research team in Antarctica, of which the film’s production team is a part: not only in the field during the filming, but also as a part of the science grant from the beginning of the research effort since 2015. The sciences are no stranger to the idea of co-creation; however, this project was unique in that this was the first NSF grant in the Office of Polar Programs to have a filmmaker as Co-principal Investigator. In this sense, the film advances the way filmmakers work with polar scientists, showing the artistic process as another field of study, linked to the science.

Style: Core to Kasic’s artistic practice is the development of conceptual films that emphasize an engagement with the senses. It is through this framework that she has developed a documentary style she calls “sensory verité,” an observational, sensory-driven style in the Jean Rouch vérité tradition. The framework is based on the “sensory ethnography” style, which stems from a group of visual ethnographers at Harvard, known as the “Sensory Ethnography Lab.” In films that use this style, the space and location of the film emphasizes and hence develops its own character. The heightened sound design and haptic (or touch-related) imagery further enhance this environmental perspective. While sensory ethnography films are purely observational and typically exclude expository dialogue or interviews, “sensory verité” recognizes the importance of cognitive and linguistic components in developing ideas and community identity. This provides space for a deep engagement with the film’s subject, characters, and environment and offers an immersive synesthetic experience.

Impact: While The Lake at the Bottom of the World touches on many “hot button” climate issues, it is not a polemical film. The intended impact is more subtle. The film shows how the scientific community is striving to understand and address frightening climate questions through action, collaboration, and adventure. With the right team and tools, it is possible to advance our knowledge – and to delight in the process of discovery. Antarctica has been conventionally viewed as a lifeless continent devoid of liquid water. It is now known that vast amounts of water are present beneath the Antarctic ice sheet in subglacial lakes and rivers, and can support a diverse microbial ecosystem. Exploration of these new frontiers through this science led to globally relevant information about the importance of subglacial water on ice sheet stability and the role of subglacial ecosystems beyond Antarctica.

Watch on Tuesday, October 19, 5:00 pm PDT on

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