Filmmakers Sara Dosa and Lars Ostenfeld, whose docs “Fire of Love” and “Into the Ice” are vying for the top Dox:Award at Copenhagen Intl. Documentary Film Festival, have opened up about the creative challenges of making films about science and climate change during a morning talk at the fest’s industry events.

Dosa’s “Fire of Love,” which premiered at Sundance where it was picked up by National Geographic Films, is a lyrical archival collage of extraordinary archive material about the lives of French volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft.

Asked how she chose her story, Dosa explained that she came across them when researching her previous film set in Iceland (“The Seer and the Unseen”), and knew they were the perfect fit.

“I am endlessly curious about the human relationship with nature, specifically through the lens of myth or allegory – and how a central metaphor can tease out wider themes about the sentience of the natural world, breaking down this false narrative of a distinction between humans and nature.”

“Fire of Love” was edited during the 2020 pandemic, and Dosa said it offered a welcome escape from lockdown. “In those moments of isolation, fear and uncertainty, getting to be transported through their footage was revelatory – and to have our minds ignited through curiosity in such times of uncertainty was such a gift.”

Curiosity was also what pushed Ostenfeld to film and become one of the protagonists of “Into the Ice,” an epic cinematic adventure with three leading glaciologists into the mystery of Greenland’s melting ice sheet, which will be hitting the festival circuit after Copenhagen.

Overcoming his fear of helicopter flight, Ostenfeld found himself looking down into a 180 meter deep dark ice hole.

“I thought ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ They told me it was a record melting year, that’s why the hole was so deep. It was out of this world: the most beautiful but also the most dangerous thing I have ever seen,” he said.

“But when I have my camera and start working, it helps. It was so important to bring the camera down there and show people what the ice sheet looks like from the inside.”

While he hadn’t initially planned on being in the film, Ostenfeld soon realized that the best way to connect the three expeditions, which had been delayed by the pandemic, was to go along himself.

Over the three years of intermittent shooting, he developed a close relationship with his protagonists. He also brought along with him a sound engineer as he said the sounds of the melting ice were key to understanding the alarming phenomenon.

Asked about a clip from “Fire of Love” featuring breathtaking close-up shots of groaning, molten lava, Dosa explained how the 16 mm footage they recovered from the Kraffts’ expeditions came without sound, so she and her team built their own soundscapes.

“It was a balance between trying to make it accurate but also playful,” she explained, citing a scene featuring Indonesia’s Krakatoa to which they added dinosaur sounds.

“I loved that so much because it heightens this beastly, monstrous feel that played into this guiding aesthetic of magic realism – below the surface you sense that there is something sentient there,” she said.

Dosa explained how she and her team experienced volcanoes close up during a retreat to Iceland last summer. “The most fascinating was the sounds – there’s a hiss, a crackle and a pop, and then a boom from somewhere – it helped illustrate the surprise, the unpredictability. I understood why [Maurice and Katia Krafft] describe themselves as moths to a flame – it was important for us all to share that as we went into the edit.”

While the protagonists in both their films are scientists, Dosa and Ostenfeld made the choice not to overload the viewer with scientific information. Ostenfeld explained how he was told, when initially pitching his film, that “climate change isn’t sexy.” After securing initial funds from a scientific foundation, he was able to bring back footage from Greenland and show commissioners that it was.

“We translate what the scientists are saying. We try to simplify it a bit – not too much – and put images on it, because images are very strong,” he said.

For Dosa, too, the challenge was finding the right balance between sharing scientific information without getting in the way of the emotional journey.

“We tried to put the viewer in the minds of Maurice and Katia and take you on a journey of research and understanding, comparing it to falling in love, and we didn’t want that to compete with a heavy, saturated [scientific] experience,” she said, adding that her film is, however, deeply political.

“Adding an emotional component gives the audience a direct way to engage. Storytelling in this fashion is extremely urgent. Scientific languages are depoliticized and this couldn’t be more politically important. It is important to show the aliveness of the natural world, the power dynamics, so the different choices that filmmakers make can stir the debate about this [climate] crisis.”