• July 3, 2014

A Magical Night at a Cinema on Ice

Becky Harlan

On his most recent trip to Greenland, photographer Ciril Jazbec witnessed something magical—a photographic experience that made his “hairs stand on end.” He was there working on his project, On Thin Ice, a chapter in a larger body of work chronicling the effects of climate change on communities in low-lying regions.

While in Uummannaq, (which is surprisingly the eleventh-largest town in Greenland, even with a population of about 1,200 people) Jazbec came across Children’s Home Uummannaq. Speaking with the director, he learned that one of the ways the facility helps children is by “involving them in the traditional way of life, connecting them with hunters and fishermen”—the sort of cultural traditions often affected by changing weather patterns and globalization, and right in the crux of Jazbec’s goal of putting a human face on climate change.

One night, Children’s Home arranged to take the kids on a special outing—“We decided to head to the ice—to the frozen-over sea—to project Inuk, a Greenlandic language film, onto an iceberg,” Ciril says. The film is especially relevant because of its cast of “nonprofessional Inuit actors”—seal hunters and youth from a local children’s home—and its narrative highlighting the tension between tradition and modernity present in contemporary Greenland.

Picture of a group of people watching a movie that is being projected onto an iceberg
Children’s Home Uummannaq projects the Greenlandic language film, ‘Inuk,’ onto an iceberg. The film, directed by Mike Magidson, tells the story of a young urban boy who is put in a foster home in the north where his guardian sends him to the bear hunter, Ikuma, so that he may learn wisdom.

“In a visual sense, it was one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard for me to describe how much it inspired me and how touched I was. Just coming onto the ice with snowmobiles was immensely exciting. Before the projector was set up, the children did a couple of dances and sang some Greenlandic songs. I only watched the first 10 minutes of the movie and then I decided to use the tripod to discreetly shoot multi-second exposure photos, trying to capture the images illuminated by the projection. I remember a moment where I laid down on the ice, I was watching the stars and the northern lights, and I thought to myself, ‘this is a very special moment.’”

Picture of Nielsine Løvstrøm holding a small puppy and watching a film as it is projected onto an iceberg.
Nielsine Løvstrøm from the Children’s Home Uummannaq cradles a Greenlandic puppy to keep it warm while she watches the film.
Picture of a girl who is watching a film that is being projected onto an iceberg
Jensigne Løvstrøm from Children’s Home Uummannaq watches the movie Inuk. She is wearing traditional clothing made out of seal skin.
Picture of Joas Korneliussen watching the film, Inuk, as it is projected on the ice
Joas Korneliussen, a local hunter, watches the movie Inuk. He helped organize and transport everyone to watch the film on the ice using a snow mobile.

Screening a film onto an iceberg sounds logistically complicated . . . and cold. Jazbec says the preparation took a few days. “We did some recon on the ice to find a suitable iceberg and prepared a DVD player and sound system powered by a gasoline-fueled generator. The seats were just sleds covered with deer and musk ox skin.” And as for the temperature? “The weather was provided by some higher power . . . It was perfect, about –4 degrees Fahrenheit, with no wind and the most beautiful starry night sky sprayed with northern lights.”

Picture of Ron Davis Alvarez and Sofia Hernandez Mejia, visiting music teachers to the Children's Home, watching the film
Ron Davis Alvarez and Sofia Hernandez Mejia are musicians and music teachers from Venezuela. They visited Children’s Home for few months this year to teach the kids music with El Sistema, a music program that aims to create great musicians while dramatically changing the life trajectory the kids it works with.

As children caught between the old ways and the new sat transfixed by the film, their faces illuminated with light from the digital projector, Jazbec felt he was able to record images that “don’t just tell the story of a moment, but also capture a larger story about modern Greenland—remote towns caught up in globalization, about young people leaving for the cities.”

Picture of Bertrand Lozay, a French filmmaker and artist, turning off the projector after the film
Bertrand Lozay, French documentary filmmaker and artist from Uummannaq Polar Institute turns off the projector after the film screening. He conducts research on the disappearance of Greenland’s traditional hunters and put on workshops with children from Children’s Home.

“I’m not interested in merely taking pretty pictures of communities undergoing momentous changes, I’m looking to create a long-term life’s work that stands as a document of a time and a people who lived in this time, reminding us of how things used to be and cautioning us that our planet is delicate and fragile.”

Learn more about the film Inuk on its site.

Ciril Jazbec’s project, On Thin Ice, will be on view in an exhibition at the Les Rencontres Arles Photographie from July 7-September 21, 2014. See more of Jazbec’s work on his website. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow Becky Harlan on Twitter and Instagram.

There are 104 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Peter Myrianthopoulos
    September 8, 2014

    Here is a rather free translation of my previous Greek message: “Congratulations for the presentation of an unexpected subject and the symbolism of this enterprise. Continue on this path over all obstacles”.

  2. Παν. Μυριανθοπουλος
    September 8, 2014

    Μπράβο για το απροσδόκητο θέαμα και τον συμβολισμό του όλου επιχειρήματος. Συνεχίστε ακαθεκτοι!

  3. Virginia Trembath
    July 29, 2014

    These are some of the most beautiful and awe inspiring pictures I have seen. The look on the faces of the people is pure wonder and contentment! Oh, to be so inspired.

  4. Alok Panda
    July 25, 2014

    B-E-A-utiful !!!
    People like you, makes people like me glued to NGC.

  5. Brenda
    July 21, 2014

    I was breathless viewing your stunning photos. Living moments. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Bruce Gamble
    July 20, 2014

    Thank you for taking the time to share this gift of all of what it took to put this together. Conversion of imagination to reality can take lots of work but can bring stunning rewards. I like those who have commented before me am totally enchanted. Again, thank you.

  7. Julia Blake
    July 20, 2014

    Breathtaking scenes of gentleness & warmth in so much cold. Is there a film about this? Where can we get it?

  8. janet deeds
    July 19, 2014

    what everyone else said… the wonderment, in aw!!!!!!!!! the beauty!!! WOW!!!!!!!

  9. cyril
    July 17, 2014

    beyond comments.it is a wonderful experience.no words to describe. congratulations

  10. cheeyandira madaiah
    July 17, 2014

    Hi there amazing photos and information.

  11. Carolina Reyes
    July 16, 2014

    It’s really fantastically

  12. Gsus Ajax
    July 16, 2014

    My dear Friend – simply Amazing. Gsus Loves You

  13. Paris Swann
    July 16, 2014

    WOW.. that is amazing.

  14. Nina Douglas
    July 15, 2014

    Beautiful photography. I would have loved to see that movie.

  15. malu block
    July 15, 2014

    Beautiful beyond words. Thank you for these amazing potos.

    July 15, 2014

    I would love to see the actual movie. This is a wonderful documentary, love the story and photography.

  17. Yveline Rakotondramboa
    July 15, 2014

    Thank you for sharing. Quite an experience for us living in more than warm Madagascar !

  18. Fornik Tsai
    July 15, 2014

    It’s really so beautiful!

  19. Bruno Assirelli
    July 15, 2014

    Un po “freddine” ma, magiche e bellissime

  20. Alberto
    July 14, 2014

    Impresionante belleza y memo

    Impresionante belleza. Gracias por tan Buena e intersante información.

    July 14, 2014

    Magical … so wonderfull

  22. Jeanne
    July 14, 2014

    thank you to National Geographic for all the years of wonderful pictures around the world

  23. Cristina
    July 14, 2014

    Increible!!! Gracias por toda esa informacion!!

  24. Patricia I. Aguirre
    July 14, 2014

    Thank you National Geographic for sharing the beauty of another culture, it is mazing. Best regards from Guayaquil-Ecuador

  25. DJ Araujo
    July 14, 2014

    Thank you NG for sharing this experience with us and exposing us to the beauty of another culture in a fascinating backdrop of ice and beauty.

  26. Lenox
    July 14, 2014

    Inspiring project and beautiful photographs,Wonderful,really breath taking.

  27. Eric Waters
    July 14, 2014

    so amazing, so inspiring, so spiritual and yet so human

  28. zane
    July 14, 2014

    that was a good idea. I was impressed.

  29. Jacinta Kearns
    July 14, 2014

    What a wonderful world we live in. Thank you to all the people involved in making this project happen. Good luck to all of you.

  30. Olga Damant
    July 14, 2014

    Breath taking!

  31. Ponnuswamy
    July 14, 2014

    Witnessing these pics itself is fantastic experience..

  32. Sampath Adikari
    July 14, 2014

    Nice Photography

  33. Queenie
    July 14, 2014


  34. seeker_fool
    July 14, 2014

    A perfect moment. So happy you could find a moment in life so beautiful and rarified!

  35. Kate Colfs
    July 14, 2014

    Inspiring project and beautiful photographs.

  36. Jenny de Beer
    July 14, 2014

    What an amazing place to watch a movie. The photos of the people watching the movie are really beautiful. Well done!

  37. Marjan khaleghi
    July 14, 2014

    wow, what a wonderful project, Thanks to your vivid explanation, lots of other people now share the same experience. It was extraordinary.

  38. Rajendra Sharma
    July 14, 2014

    Nice photography!!! Nature at its best

  39. SR GUPTA
    July 14, 2014

    Really Awesome! Great idea, great work, great everything!

  40. christine bourke
    July 14, 2014

    big life changing times r ahead for Greenland. mining companies r lining up to rape the country for resources unfortunately.

  41. Muguwa Joseph
    July 14, 2014

    Stunningand quite beautiful; especially with the contrast related to the tropics! Thank you please. Wish we could have more of such

  42. jaafar
    July 14, 2014

    magical, fascinating and amazing. Thank you for sharing. Hope this natural and cultural beauty ‘ll last forever.

  43. Clotilde S.
    July 13, 2014

    Beautiful! Great work. Thanks for showing to us,,,,,

  44. Marianina Anthony
    July 13, 2014

    Looks so COLD but is so beautiful

  45. Deb
    July 13, 2014


  46. Shane
    July 13, 2014

    I have been following NatGeo since the 80’s. . . no one presents photography and the story behind them better. Fabulous.

  47. Carol Goodnight
    July 13, 2014

    How wonderful and inspiring.
    Thank you NG for sharing this. wonderful documentary.

  48. Ana Elizabeth Hernandez
    July 13, 2014

    Ciril Jazbec’s Cinema on Ice… Todo es posible en cualquier lugar del mundo..se requiere de mucho valor, esfuerzo y dedicación mediante el amor a nuestro planeta frágil y delicado…tenemos que seguir tratándolo sin duda alguna de la misma manera!! Groenlandia y las personas que lo habitan son tan hermosas, como en cualquier otro lugar del mundo…!!! Nunca he estado en Groenlandia pero este proyecto me recuerda que aun existen personas que enaltecen la vida..Gracias

  49. Nirmal Kumar Mishra
    July 13, 2014

    The description is so vivid!

  50. Dennis Yoshida
    July 13, 2014

    the whole idea and purpose of capturing images and shariing them is the essence of this kind of beautiful work.

  51. Anne VALLOTTON
    July 13, 2014

    You have captured the innocence of life and the fragile children’s culture. Your photos are a testament to those who care, even in the face of these extreme elements. It also should also remind us to look UP more often. Thank you.

  52. Ann Burrows
    July 13, 2014

    Best theater in the world. The humanity of the pictures of those watching is beautiful. Wish I could have been there.

  53. Barin
    July 13, 2014

    Magical……stunning pictures

  54. Nicholas Mendiet
    July 13, 2014

    One of the most finest documentary I have seen in my life, so far.

  55. valentin ioan sarbu
    July 13, 2014

    Pare o lume ireala , o naturalete cu adevarat unica .

  56. Neil MacKinnon
    July 13, 2014

    Thanks for giving me these beautiful and inspiring insights into our wonderful and diverse world.

  57. Tom Gonzalez
    July 13, 2014

    AWESOME!! Sooooo artistic!

  58. Roy Andersen
    July 13, 2014

    Congratulation on a fantastic project….stunning images…

  59. George De Bruyn
    July 13, 2014

    Very interesting, wish I could be there to witness this excitement

  60. Liga
    July 13, 2014

    Amazing, thank you for such a beauty!

  61. Ronald Duran
    July 13, 2014

    This Documentary was Amazing and Touching ,with pure Nature and beauty of there Culture ,really breath taking !!
    thank you Ciril Jazbec for sharing your Passion

  62. Dr.M.Unnikrishnan
    July 13, 2014

    Fantastic! Thank you.

  63. Pauline G. Ouellet
    July 13, 2014

    Just incredible picture! Greenland is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  64. Bill Rodriguez
    July 13, 2014

    Excellent article. NG please give us more info about Greenland the beautiful mysterious forgotten nation.

  65. Karim Shokair
    July 13, 2014

    Magical & Wonderful photographical experience – BRILLIANT – Bless you & Thank you

  66. Martin
    July 13, 2014

    this storytouches my heart. I have been in Churchil in 1988, nobody was talking about clima change. This story is profoundly emotional, the text and the pictures taken melt perfectly. Congratulations, you meet up with your goals

    July 13, 2014

    Thanks to National Geographic we can savour the beauty of Greenland. Keep up the good work

  68. Martin
    July 13, 2014

    Beautiful images and a fascinating story.

  69. Nancy Keefe Rhodes
    July 13, 2014

    This is just magical! There is so much happening in the world right now that is horrific for children. I am grateful beyond words for this glimpse at something very different.

  70. asp
    July 13, 2014

    What time of year was this event? Obviously not summer.

  71. Gina
    July 13, 2014

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful people and nature pictures. What a way of life!! It’s so incredible the beauty of this place! Keep it a hidden secret so it’s not destroyed by commerciality.

  72. Roy Miranda
    July 13, 2014

    I am in Bujumbura, Burundi East Africa right in the heart of Africa at present, its nearly 6pm and the Sun is setting behind the trees and Hills, the setting is heaven with clear skies and the Sun rays lighting up the sky in waves and jets of Orange colours, temperature is 23C.
    The world we have is so beautiful and contrasting when you compare your pictures and what I am experiencing, worlds apart but we are all on the same planet, amazing photographs of another world with in our world. Keep up the good work.

  73. Prem Mooloo
    July 13, 2014

    For me it”s like having a sweet dream being from a tiny country having never seen snow. I loved it with wonder!

  74. MVH
    July 13, 2014

    Mesmerizing and beautiful.

  75. Adan
    July 13, 2014

    What an awesome and beautiful culture of Greenland ppl.

  76. Trish
    July 13, 2014

    Thank you for the beauty. Hopefully we’ll get to see it for ourselves one day

  77. Rose Cook
    July 13, 2014

    outstanding photography…..profound images……thank you

  78. Marco Anzidei
    July 13, 2014


  79. Donna Winters
    July 13, 2014

    These photographs are absolutely stunning. Thank you for the entire story.

  80. nimet mazloum
    July 13, 2014

    Very touching and beautiful… Bravo!

  81. Carl Adams
    July 13, 2014

    Thank you

  82. Carl Adams
    July 13, 2014

    The images in the reflective light off the ice are amazing. Your work is so critical to our global knowledge. Thanks for sharing. Peace be with you.

  83. Lynn W. Doolittle
    July 13, 2014

    This article took my breath away. I have dreamed of visiting Greenland for years. The wonder of the night on the ice and the children’s faces was remarkable. Thank you.

  84. Makofoto
    July 13, 2014

    I only wish he had rolled video also

  85. Kristen Pokky
    July 13, 2014

    Want to see more!

  86. Sigrid hafner
    July 13, 2014

    Captures Greenland and the people most beautifully. I have been to Greenland and this brings my memories back to my daily life and uplifts me. Thanks

  87. Jacque
    July 7, 2014

    This is literally so amazing.

  88. Cajetan Dsouza
    July 7, 2014

    anything is possible anywhere, it just how much of an effort we are willing to push to. Our planet is fragile and delicate, it always was…. will be .. we need to treat her so. Peace

  89. niels hansen
    July 7, 2014

    I can totally relate to the feeling of hairs standing on end. Ice is fantastic. And I love your photos!

  90. Donna
    July 6, 2014

    How very cool!!

  91. Kimberley Watkins
    July 6, 2014

    I have wanted to travel to Greenland and Iceland and the Canadian Arctic for so long. I want to photograph the people who live there and their way of life. Too bad $$$ keeps me from doing it.

  92. S. S. Salyers
    July 5, 2014

    unimaginable beauty.
    thank for capturing these beautiful images. I can only hope that…we stop ruining the world.

  93. david
    July 5, 2014

    I love it

  94. Jenni
    July 5, 2014

    I am honoured to have been given the opportunity for such viewing, and so educational. Beautiful people!

  95. Nurul Huda Mohammad
    July 5, 2014

    This is fascinating. The projector and all the project looks great and I’ve never seen this before. It is a beautiful thing to know.

  96. alan
    July 5, 2014

    Muy hermosas las imágenes!

  97. K.F. Davidson
    July 5, 2014

    Great concept. The photos show such pure enchantment on the people’s faces. It must have been a joy to experience. Thank you for sharing this.

  98. Maria Dina Mackey
    July 5, 2014


  99. Jayne
    July 4, 2014

    Wonderful,really breath taking.

  100. Sofia Hernandez
    July 3, 2014

    Ciril Thanks for including us, your job is Great!

  101. Alistair Campbell
    July 3, 2014

    How about we leave them in peace !

  102. Rick Eppard
    July 3, 2014

    it is better if We the people don’t know about this place..because you know as well as I do..if you was to open it up to the people of the world..that it would be destroyed in a very short time..enjoy and hello from florida..!

  103. John E.T. Amokaha
    July 3, 2014

    Fascinating not ‘cos a film is watched on ice.Just don’t think it unusual in so far removed & frozen climes.But always incredulous that people are at home in these places & I think it an exceptional experience for visitors.

  104. junnu ravi kumar
    July 3, 2014

    A great documentary .
    Many people ignore the existance of greenland.
    It needs a recognition about its natural and cultural beauty.

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