Leanne Allison, director of Losing Blue tells the story of what it means to lose blue – referring to the fading colour of our ancient mountain lakes. 

Born and raised in Calgary, Allison grew up surrounded by the Canadian Rockies, expecting them and their glacier-fed blue lakes to be there forever. 

“I’ve been around these lakes and I took for granted that they would be the same colour forever,” said Allison. 

Losing Blue is a mini-documentary that immerses audiences in the idea of what ‘blue’ is and promotes conversations about the ever-changing nature of the climate. It is intended to be a metaphor for the impacts of climate change without putting pressure on audiences to feel or think a certain way. 

“We don’t tell people how to feel. We don’t tell people what to do about climate change. It’s more about this in-the-moment experience of blue,” said Allison. “We purposely didn’t tie it all up and …I think it’s actually more powerful if we come to those conclusions ourselves.”

The idea for the film came to Allison from two scientists, Janet Fischer and Mark Olson, who approached her to create a video about their extensive research around alpine lakes in the Rockies. However, Fischer and Olson had two stipulations for the film – they didn’t want to be in it and they didn’t want it to be a conventional run-of-the-mill science documentary. 

After this project came to her attention, Allison was inspired by all of the possibilities for a different approach to a film of this nature. After spending five months in the Arctic following and studying Caribou migration for her other documentary Being Caribou, Allison said that the way she saw the world changed. 

“We just got so caught up in this ancient rhythm,” said Allison. “It felt like we woke up to this old way of being human. I think that that experience has just shaped everything going forward.”

What ‘blue’ means

Allison defined blue as one of the rarest and strangest colours in nature. 

“[Blue is] rare in things we can hold, like birds, flowers, stones, and everywhere in things we can’t hold…you can’t hold a handful of the sky,” said Allison. 

Drawing audiences in and provoking them to view and think of blue in different ways throughout the documentary was intended to allow viewers to feel and experience the lakes in real-time. 

“We actually ask [viewers] ‘what is this feeling? What is this mystery? And what would it mean if it was gone?,’” said Allison. 

Millions of people from all over the world come to see the Canadian Rockies and their iconic blue lakes every year explained Allison. However, somehow, virtually no one knows that the colour is slowly disappearing, including herself. She said that this insight has reminded her of all of the things we, as a collective global community, are losing to climate change and made her wonder what else she was missing. 

Sky reflecting in glacial lake. PHOTO: COURTESY OF NFB PUBLICIST.

“These lakes have been this colour for thousands of years and right now in my lifetime, and my kid’s lifetime, that’s changing,” said Allison. 

When Allison sees a great film or reads a great book, she explained that she will often come away and see the world a little differently.

“My biggest hope for this film is that people see it and the next time they notice the blue sky, they see it differently,” said Allison. 

Where to catch the film

Losing Blue is premiering at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) on Friday, Sept. 22 at 6:15 PM at Eau Claire Market. 

Both Allison and J.B. MacKinnon, the writer, will be attending the screening with a Q&A to follow.

Tickets are available for purchase here for in-person viewing or streamed viewing.  

Leanne Allison, director of Losing Blue, is featured in a tweet from CIFF

“Hopefully what resonates with Calgarians is that we’re so lucky that we get to go and see these lakes that are basically in our backyard,” said Allison. 

Report an Error or Typo

Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.