UK comedy goes "Beyond The Pole" to save planet

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Amid the doom and gloom that has followed the lackluster outcome to last December’s U.N. summit to save the planet from global warming, it takes a brave man to make a comedy about climate change.

That is exactly what British director David L. Williams did with the film “Beyond The Pole,” which is due for British release on February 12 at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts.

The film follows the adventure of two friends who set out to complete the first carbon neutral, vegetarian and organic expedition to the North Pole.

Amateur explorers Mark (Stephen Mangan) and Brian (Rhys Thomas) embark on the expedition, in hopes of attaining a Guinness world record and to draw attention to the issue of global warming. The problem is, they are both totally under-prepared for the trip’s challenges.

En route, they tackle vengeful polar bears, encounter a rival homosexual Norwegian expedition team and struggle to cope with Mark’s deteriorating psychological state.

With the failure of December’s U.N. talks in Copenhagen to draw up a legally binding climate pact still fresh in people’s minds, surely poking fun at the potentially devastating issue of climate change is no laughing matter?

Williams disagrees. He insists comedy was necessary to attract a wide cross-section of people to the film and make them think about global warming.

“The comedy route gets more traction. If you have a point of view and send yourself up a bit, you draw people in,” Williams told Reuters in an interview.

With British comedy actors Stephen Mangan and Rhys Thomas in the lead roles, supported by Mark Benton, Helen Baxendale and Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard, the film should get the wider appeal the director hopes for.

“We are not being a doctor saying you have to do a list of things -- one to 10. We are trying to reach an audience that is not inherently green-minded and somehow make an emotional connection.”


The comic element of “Beyond The Pole” does darken to culminate in some almost unwatchable scenes, which remind us of the harsh reality of Brian and Mark’s environment.

On a tight budget of “several hundred thousand pounds,” actors and production crew met their own challenges while on location in Greenland and Iceland.

Temperatures of minus 20 degrees, hungry polar bears, armed local hunters, shifting sea ice, dwindling daylight hours and weather shifts from sunshine to blizzard in 10 minutes made filming conditions difficult to say the least.

In such a harsh climate, the production of “Beyond The Pole” struggled to match its subject matter by being carbon neutral.

“Film is not inherently very green, nor is distribution. We did what we could. I don’t particularly believe in offsetting but we did everything we could to make the film as low-carbon as possible,” Williams said.

Funding came through quicker than anticipated as Williams realized the film’s primary location would melt within two months.

“Orthodox routes weren’t going to come together in time so we went to private equity investors and the funds were released during pre-production.”

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Paul Casciato