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Comparison Between Chasing Ice and Always Faithful by Semper Fi

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Documentary Analysis

“Chasing Ice” and “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” were two very affecting documentaries we had the privilege of viewing. Both films focused on serious issues well deserving of the little bit of light shed on them by the filmmakers. “Chasing Ice” focuses on the melting glaciers around the world, and is a breathtaking look at human kind’s startling effects on the environment. Through incredible imagery, the documentary is able to visually stun the audience as well as open their eyes to the devastatingly real effects of global warming. The film is put together as a journey, starting with the initiation of the Extreme Ice Survey, to then traveling across continents, leading to the eventual distribution and presentation of James Balog’s findings. There is an absolute climactic arc in the story, where the audience find themselves hoping the cameras work and anxiously wait for the presentation of footage at the end. “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” focuses on a lower scale issue, but one that still affected millions of people across the entire country. This documentary is an emotionally powerful look at the water contamination of Camp Lejeune that affected the families and children of those families who stayed at the camp over a number of years. While “Chasing Ice” was an observational piece that strived to inform its audience, “Semper Fi” was more of an exploitation piece that looked at the journey of informing the public of the problem. In conclusion, both films were similar in presenting a pressing issue, however I see “Chasing Ice” as a method of informing the public, and “Semper Fi” as the documentation of the process of informing the public.

Both films have a central character; James Balog in “Chasing Ice,” and Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger in “Semper Fi.” James Balog is a great character to focus around. His passion is explosive and contagious, and he is so clearly devoted to his project. His determination is illustrated by his family’s testimonies as well as the comments made by his colleagues. He drives the story, and I could not imagine a different type of person leading this documentary. “Semper Fi” has a central character, Jerry Ensminger, but also many supporting characters. Jerry’s story was driven by the tragic death of his young daughter, who passed away due to the water contamination. He is the one who initiates the investigation of the marines’ misconduct regarding the water supply in Camp Lejeune. Along his journey of locating the truth, he meets Mike. Mike is a man who contracted male breast cancer after being born at the camp. His story has a great impact on the documentary, almost as if he is a secondary central character. His testimony at the meeting where they confront a representative of the marines is extremely touching. He begins to tear up as he demands the marine representative help their cause, and I found him to be a very affecting character.

The audiences targeted by the two films are similar in their urgency, but difference in size. “Semper Fi” is geared towards the United States, while “Catching Ice” is more of a globally focused film. The issues discussed in “Semper Fi” are those pertaining to a governmental injustice involving the Marine Corps, an institution which should be considered resolute and trustworthy. Their target audience is the country, rather than just veterans and those involved in the Marines, due to the face that it is a national issue that everyone needs to know about. When an injustice of that nature occurs without proper solution, the country needs to know about it. “Chasing Ice” was geared to the world, because it is a global issue. The entire climate of the Earth we live on has changed drastically in recent years, which is fault of no country or continent in particular. Although the documentary makes obvious the need for change, it is not particularly a call to action. It is more of an attempt at making the world aware.

The ways in which interviews are implemented in both films contribute to their success in telling their stories. The interviews used in “Chasing Ice” supplement the story of James Balog’s passion for finding the truth about climate change, as well as it informs the audience of his journey. I personally liked the interviews from the two young men who accompany James on his mission. Their stories are lighthearted and I felt more identifiable with them, perhaps because they were younger and recently students. I thought their interviews were implemented in an excellent way. They truly capture the essence of excitement that comes from a project like this. As mentioned before, James’ family’s interviews are also very telling of his clear devotion to his project. They add a bit of emotion to the film, because James had to spend a lot of time away from his family during the several years that this project spanned.

The interviews used in “Semper Fi” contribute a lot to the deep emotional nature of the film. Most of the accounts come from individuals directly impacted by the water contamination, either through their own illness or though a family member’s. Like “Chasing Ice,” family interviews are also used. Mike’s family members express their worry about his illness possibly coming back, but they also expressed their support. You could tell that they disliked the time he had to spend working on the issue, and they feared they might not be spending enough time with him. As for supporting character interviews, I was most struck by the female veteran who passed away during the making of the film. Her story was like all the others; she lived a normal life serving for the marines, passed through Camp Lejeune during her service, and continued on to lead her life afterwards. When she heard the news about her illness, she couldn’t handle even reading the diagnosis. Something about the way the filmmakers captured her account made me really think about how normal these people were. Like many others, cancer seemed like something that happened to other people and not themselves. But because of the water contamination, this was her life, and eventual death. It really illustrated the power that a strong interview can have.

In regard to theme, both documentaries are suspenseful in the sense that you needed to know what was going to happen next. Their use of storytelling was very successful in engaging the audience from beginning to end. They were also both very factual and informational. The way that the information is gradually uncovered in “Semper Fi” is one of the main pulls for the audience, aside from the emotional factor. I can see why people viewed it as a feature film. It has a sort of dull suspense throughout the film that makes the audience hope that some good will be achieved by the end. The film grabs the audience and forces them to go on this journey with Jerry Ensminger. The main suspense in “Chasing Ice” comes from wondering whether or not the cameras will work. Also, subsequent suspense is induced through the mystery of seeing what the footage looks like in the end.

Both films made me feel very deep emotions in different ways, but overall I got the idea that something in this world was wrong and needed change. Both films also left me with a feeling that change is being made and good can be achieved if people work towards it, and work together. “Chasing Ice” is a huge wakeup call to the audience that global warming is happening, and it is happening because of the people. They address the skeptics with clear-cut evidence, and make it undeniable that climate change is real. “Semper Fi” is a story of a tragic injustice done to the marines and their families who were contaminated at Camp Lejeune, which has a saddening effect on its audience. It is hard to ignore the raw emotion that the individuals in the documentary expressed. The filmmakers overall did an amazing job of capturing their audiences, and keeping them interested and engaged the whole way through.

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Comparison between Chasing Ice and Always faithful by Semper Fi. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
“Comparison between Chasing Ice and Always faithful by Semper Fi.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
Comparison between Chasing Ice and Always faithful by Semper Fi. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Jan. 2022].
Comparison between Chasing Ice and Always faithful by Semper Fi [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2022 Jan 26]. Available from:
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