about 1,200 residents at peak capacity, McMurdo Station is the New York City of
Antarctica. It is by far the largest of the small research facilities scattered
throughout the frozen continent. A satellite communications engineer by trade, New
Zealander Anthony Powell became an accomplished photographer and budding
filmmaker during his ten years stationed in Antarctica. He had to do something
to pass the time, besides marrying an American co-worker. He documents both its
vast unspoiled natural beauty as well as the hardy but diverse people who make
some kind of a home there in Antarctica:
a Year on Ice (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
it gets cold down there. In fact, Year
would not be possible were it not for the inventive new techniques Powell
developed and his general talent for jury-rigging cameras. Nature lovers will
oh-and-awe at his time lapse photography, but the film is even more interested
in Powell’s colleagues and neighbors, making it a close cinematic cousin of
Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of
the World. Yet, Powell is more egalitarian, focusing on the accountants,
firemen, and shopkeepers who perform “conventional” jobs in one of the most
remote corners of the world.
his footage and their anecdotes, Powell gives viewers a vivid sense of life in
the extreme southern latitudes. Again, it sure gets cold, but it is the wind
that really gets to you. Stir craziness is a fact of life, but everyone seems
to pull together into an easygoing community. Tellingly, it is things like rain
and avocadoes that people really look forward to during their visits home.
Powell’s film is much more impressive visually than Herzog’s tourist look-see.
However, there are no grand themes to Year,
just a bemused fascination with the everyday adventurism of his colleagues. There
is a sense they all belong to a gender-neutral fraternal order of ice dwellers,
whose shared experiences brings them back season after season. Fear not, Powell
also films plenty of penguins, which just about anyone going to an Antarctica documentary
will want to see.
Even though the elements added a significant
degree of chance into the equation, Powell still captures some amazing images.
Arguably, he should win best cinematographer awards across the board, because
who else can claim shots like these? Technically, it is far superior to an
average installment of PBS’s Nature,
but it has the same general niceness and similar tacked-on messages regarding
conservation and climate variance. Recommended for fans of nature docs and
History Channel extreme jobs reality programming, Antarctica: a Year on Ice opens this Friday (11/28) in New York at
the Village East.
Labels: Antarctica, Documentary, New Zealand cinema