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A virtual Arctic experience opened on Friday in the dome theatre of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center at Balboa Park. The new IMAX film, To the Arctic, features a mother polar bear and her two cubs as they struggle to survive in their changing environment.

The film's director of photography, Brad Ohlund, explains that filming polar bears does not come without risks. Although no members of the crew were harmed during the making of the film, an attack occurred while they were stationed in Svalbard, a Norwegian group of islands. A polar bear used its teeth to drag a man by the head. The film crew pressed on with filming despite coming across the man in town to hear the story first hand - he was dancing 3 days later at a local club, with a bandage around his head.

The film features underwater shots of polar bears taken by San Diego's own, Emmy Award winning cinematographer, Bob Cranston. Ohlund explains that Cranston would wait for the polar bears to get interested in him and dive towards the camera - using himself as bait! To keep the bear between the camera and his meat-self, Cranston would dive lower, beyond the polar bear's comfortable diving depth. So, it was important to make sure he wasn't in water that was too shallow, especially because these polar bears have a hard time finding food nowadays.

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In the digital age in which we live, it is a bit ironic that (perhaps) the most advanced movie watching experience (IMAX), is mostly filmed on 3 minute magazines - not digitally. So, instead of liberally filming everything, allowing for an abundant amount of creativity in the editing process, the old school skills of timing shots and getting it right (as it happens) is the IMAX way. The risk of getting killed by a polar bear and the freezing water doesn't make it any easier.

The film addresses global warming directly, and Ohlund explains that no matter what your opinion on the origin of climate change is, "The fact of the matter is that Arctic ice is diminishing."

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Ohlund goes on to tell me that "people who don't care one way or another about whether or not there is global warming (or what caused it)... are buying up land along the Northwest Passage because they realize that this is an area that is going to be ripe for development of one type or another, because of the cargo ships that are starting to move through there."

This economical path for moving cargo between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans is of course made possible due to the ice melting, beyond the normal, yearly melting cycle in the summer.

"My personal feeling is that we are a community on this planet. We are a community of varied species. As human beings we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. That's not right wing, left wing, that's not centrist, its just common sense - you don't mess your own nest."

To the Arctic incorporates the Beatles song Because and is narrated by Meryl Streep.

It plays most days at 12PM, 2PM, and 4PM. Check for show times

Adults: $10.75 (member), $15.75 (visitor)

Juniors/Seniors: $9.00 (member), $12.75 (visitor)

The price includes access to the Science Center exhibits

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

1875 El Prado, 92101

(619) 238-1233

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