The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

                                The Northern Lights
| 47 min

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This feature length documentary examines the phenomenon of the northern lights, aka the aurora borealis. Though scientists have advanced many theories in an attempt to explain it, mysteries still linger. Experience a visual panorama of animated legends and international space launches as indigenous people and scientists offer their perceptions of the wondrous northern lights.

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The Northern Lights, Alan Booth, offert par l'Office national du film du Canada

Largeur de la vidéo :

par Réinitialiser
  • réalisateur
    Alan Booth
  • cinématographie
    Alan Booth
  • producteur
    Lindsay Ann Cooke
    Alan Booth
    Jerry Krepakevich
  • producteur exécutif
    Graydon McCrea
  • scénario
    Lindsay Ann Cooke
  • son
    Garrell Clark
    Jerry Krepakevich
    Lindsay Ann Cooke
    Dan Cross
    William R. Law
    William Butler
    Rod Crawley
  • montage
    Michel Lalonde
  • animation
    Bertrand Langlois
    Elizabeth Lewis
    François Aubry
  • ré-enregistrement
    Dino Pigat
  • narrateur
    Michael Kramer
    Lydia Slabyj
  • musique
    Quartet Icarus

  • mgawler

    The Northern Lights is a 1992 educational documentary film directed by Alan Booth and produced by the National Film Board of Canada and Yellowknife Films, a media production company specialising in documentaries about the land and people of Canada’s Northwest Territories. It is billed by the National Film Board as follows: "This short documentary examines the phenomenon of the northern lights, aka the aurora borealis. Though scientists have advanced many theories in an attempt to explain it, mysteries still linger. Experience a visual panorama of animated legends and international space launches as indigenous people and scientists offer their perceptions of the wondrous northern lights." The film does present an interesting, if disjointed, history of how the scientific understanding of the northern lights has developed, stretching back to Aristotle in the 4th century BCE, who hypothesized that they were ignited by meteors, and touching on the work during the 18th century of Anders Celsius in Sweden and Mikhail Lomosov in Russia, who described evidence for the magnetic fluctuations controlling the aurora. We learn that the earth’s magnetosphere, which is the area of space around our planet influenced by the earth’s magnetic field, functions as a magnetic armour protecting us from hostile forces in the universe. The northern lights are created when sun spots erupt, propelling radiation and plasma into the solar system. Although most of the solar wind particles are deflected by our magnetosphere, some of them do leak in. When they start hitting the atmospheric particles of nitrogen and oxygen and make them glow, that’s what we see as the northern lights. Unfortunately, whereas the film goes to considerable length to comprehensively document the development of our scientific understanding of the northern lights, it provides only anecdotal accounts the native wisdom regarding this wondrous phenomenon, with no effort whatsoever to really explore indigenous beliefs in any depth. Even worse, when we are presented with two accounts of Inuit natives hearing a whooshing sound associated with the northern lights, and another account of dogs hearing it, the scientific commentary is dismissive: one scientist saying that hearing sounds with the northern lights “is all in the mind,” and another suggesting “Maybe these sounds are just hallucinations.” The native Yellowknife film commentator, John T’seleie, could only say: “I’ve heard that scientists have not measured the sound. I don’t know how to explain that.” The film does, however, bring in an anthropologist who argues that since the Inuit are perhaps the great observers of Arctic phenomena, one shouldn’t dismiss too easily their claims that under certain conditions the auroral displays are accompanied by sound. The aurora borealis provoke a wide range of indigenous beliefs. Many northern natives fear the northern lights. The Sami people of northern Norway tell the story of how a long time ago there was a girl and a boy who teased and insulted the northern lights. This made the northern lights angry, and they came nearer and nearer, and burned the children and turned them to stone. Another native said she had heard that the northern lights could sever peoples’ heads. Her husband added that when the lights get too close to the ground, they can take people up. And a reindeer herder from Northern Norway said he has to hide under the snow when the northern lights occur. Negative effects of the aurora borealis have in fact been found. One scientist explains how the aurora changes the composition of the atmosphere, breaking up the nitrogen and oxygen molecules and creating nitric oxide, which in turn depletes ozone. In northern Siberia, the aurora are used to predict when extra ambulances are needed, as people with critical conditions get worse during auroral storms, possibly due to the fluctuating magnetic field. On the other hand in some native cultures, the northern lights are experienced as positive spiritual forces. An Inuit grandmother tells of a shaman who went into a trance far from the igloos and called on his helping spirit. Then it was revealed that their people who had died had gone away to the joyous land of the dead in the northern lights. In the Northwest Territories, a Slavi grandmother tells how the northern lights saved their ancestors when they were far away hunting caribou and were attacked by fire. Their leader, a powerful medicine man, called on the power of the northern lights, and the hunters were lifted high into the light. They lost all sense of time and place, and by morning’s light, were miraculously back in their home camp – saved by the northern lights. But the film lacks a real message, due to the fragmented script, the disjointed editing, and the clumsy animations. Especially disappointing is the film’s artistic direction. No effort is made to bring the viewer into the realm of the magic and wonder that the spectacle of the northern lights can inspire. It is unfortunate that the film shows such a bias towards scientific materialism, and neglects to explore in any depth the sacred and mythical truths of the northern lights as reflected in the indigenous wisdom of the various native cultures of the far north. Fundamentally, the film is stuck in the Western worldview that truth and value lie mainly with empirical facts. The awesome spectacle of the northern lights offers a wonderful opportunity – missed in this film – to explore and learn from the mythical truths of the native wisdom of the north. So much more could have been done!

    mgawler, 13 Déc 2013
  • bruhaa

    isn't there some way to possibly send up some kind of very strong weather balloon or something like this and attach high density camera's to these balloons to study these lights ? other than launching a missle which only gives us such a limited time frame to study these effects and retrieve more information on this field ? I am not sure of the available materials that could be used to get up to the 5 miles up into this lower atmosphere where these lights seam to appear to generate from but if something like a high tech weather balloon could possibly even be attached to some kind of a high tech wire even to keep it stationary ? since these lights seam to be to low in our atmosphere to monitor or study with a satelite since this has to be too high to study these lights ? just an idea?

    bruhaa, 31 Mar 2010

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