Documentary explores poetry of climate change in living colour

What does it mean to you when the mountain lakes lose their blue?

Filmmaker Leanne Allison dives into that question in poetic ways with her newest documentary “Losing Blue.”

The Canmore-based filmmaker worked with both limnologists Mark Olson and Janet Fischer and with writer J.B. MacKinnon to offer some pristine blue views of glacial lakes coupled with some musings on the nature of the colour.

"Blue is the strangest colour in nature," the filmmaker speaks in the voiceover of the film. "It's rare in things we can hold like birds, flowers, stones . . . and everywhere in things we can't hold."

Strange as it may be, the blue in this film is striking, mesmerizing and the central driving force behind the narrative.

Fischer and Olson approached Allison about the potential for a project. They stipulated that they didn't want it to be a traditional science documentary.

That's what they got. Allison's end product is lyrical touching on the elegiac.

Described as a cinematic poem, “Losing Blue” is a striking 16-minute ode to the geological, hydrological and cosmological phenomenon.

That being said, the most science-y facet of the documentary comes from the description of how the movement of glaciers over bedrock grinds the stone down, creating fine rock flour. This material is then deposited into the lakes via glacial meltwater.

Those minute particles so delicately suspended in such beautiful liquid are what reflect the light in such a precise way, producing the unmistakable and unreproducible colour.

In the film's artistic terms, this colour holds the memory of “deep time.”

The film makes its point. This colour is a rare feat of natural forces beyond our ken.

Watching it through, the viewer comes to their own understanding of what other forces are bringing about a change in colour: climate change in the form of increased glacial melt, algal productivity, and forest fires producing massive amounts of airborne particles that can only make their way into our waterways.

The water is only getting cloudier; hence, the colour is changing. The end result is something that we can easily speculate about.

While this artistic documentary was filmed in Banff and Yoho, the science behind it is as relevant to Jasper as it is anywhere else.

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), the short film premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival last weekend.

According to an NFB spokesperson, “Losing Blue” is looking at the festival circuit. The NFB will eventually make the film available for free streaming across Canada on its platform at

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh