NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Writer/director Holly Morris takes her cameras along to follow the first-ever all-women expedition team to the North Pole in her documentary, Exposure. Led by veteran polar explorer Felicity Aston, a group of eleven woman adventurers embarks on this harrowing journey, years in the making. Bringing together the women from the Arab countries and the West, the team includes Aston, Natasa Briski (Slovenia), Susan Gallon (France), Mariam Alabbas Hamidaddin (Saudi Arabia), Misba Khan (U.K.), Lames Nijem (Kuwait), Ida Olsson (Sweden), Anisa Al Raissi (Oman), Olga Rumyantsteva (Russia), Stephanie Solomonides (Cyprus), and Princess Asma Al Thani (Qatar).
Going to the North Pole is not something you just do. It takes years of training, and the documentary starts with the team getting used to their equipment in Iceland. Here, they experience just a fraction of the harsh realities of their journey. They then travel to the extreme opposites of the Saudi Arabian desert to train on the dunes as they haul all their gear and supplies on sleds, tethered to them by a single cable.
The team would ultimately arrive at an outpost on the Russian side of the Arctic in 2018. The exploration window is open for only ten days, and Exposure gives us the chance to truly see how considerable an effort it is to traverse the Arctic. First established is the ice station Barneo. Next, planes have to fly overhead, search for a location to create a landing strip, and drop bulldozers to flatten the new runway without falling through the ice.
“…follow[s] the first-ever all-women expedition team to the North Pole…”
From here, every piece of equipment is packed, rigorous medical exams are conducted, and the meaning of team and teamwork is embraced more than ever. From here on out, any small mistake means failure or, worse, death. These women are truly stranded in the middle of nowhere, so rescue is far, far away.
As a documentary, Exposure beautifully captures that spirit of pushing oneself to the limit physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, all specifically from a woman’s perspective. As much as a big deal is made that this is an all-female expedition, the team doesn’t make a big deal of it. The challenges they encountered were no different than the ones men faced. It all boils down to an extraordinary accomplishment by eleven individuals.
The film is a visually stunning adventure to one of the most extreme locales in the world. The stories of these brave women are inspiring, though not enough to make me want to do it. Getting there is not just a simple matter of dragging sleds across the snow. There are icy grounds over water that barely supports the team’s weight. Frozen crevasses spanning a few feet become impossible to cross on foot. Then there are the giant cracks across the camp’s runway, which essentially stranded an injured teammate with no hope of rescue.
Morris masterfully cuts together a beautiful documentary extolling the human spirit to conquer the unconquerable. With Exposure, she captures the beauty of untouched nature and weaves together a story of suspense and thrills. There’s no guarantee that the team will make it, but you’ll be rooting for them.
Exposure screened at the 2022 Mendocino Film Festival and the 2022 Newport Beach Film Festival.
Exposure is currently playing the film festival circuit. For more information, visit the official Exposure website.
"…a beautiful documentary extolling the human spirit to conquer the unconquerable."
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