Saturday, August 03, 2013

Antarctica: A Year on Ice

Getting to Antarctica is tricky and expensive and probably most of us won't manage it. All is not lost, however,  because Anthony Powell, a New Zealander who has spent a long time working there, has become fantastically good at time-lapse photography and has kindly made a film so we can  all share in the experience. If you're thinking a documentary about Antarctica sounds worthy and dull, and that you've seen plenty of footage of this kind of thing already, you are just plain wrong. One of the best things about this film is that you get new perspectives on the icy continent.

The film features stunning  time-lapse sequences of weather, ice, sky, the passage of the sun around the sky, the stars and  the Aurora Australis. One of the new perspectives is how much more interesting the winter is than you expect. Although the sun doesn't shine for four months or so, that doesn't mean it's completely dark. There's the moon, the most stunning stars you've ever seen (light pollution being nil) and the amazing auroras.

A Year on Ice's other main facet is  life-in-Antarctica footage and quite a lot of talking heads. It's a  very personal story- Anthony and his wife reveal a lot about themselves and their lives and so do the other workers from McMurdo Base who feature. They are all personable and engaging and their enthusiasm for their location is palpable. They are the source of the new perspectives I gained which include how windy it is, how stinky a penguin colony is and how if you're going to work in the Antarctic and you're hoping to make the most of the scenery you should choose your job carefully.

If you're a fan of nature docos which are mostly just beautiful to look at there's plenty to satisfy you here - and you should be interested to know that Anthony contributed to the Frozen Planet series but saved his best footage for his own film! If you're more into human interest you'll be equally satisfied. If you'd just categorize yourself as a film enthusiast you should come and see what might be one of the few New Zealand documentaries that has wide public appeal and will do well on general release.

Anne's rating 4.5/5


  1. Good Review. I've linked to it from the Wellington Film Guide. I see you have a link to the Guide on your page - but it is now out of date. It is now:
    The Wellington Film Society has also changed. It is now;

  2. Thanks for your feedback , David - both kind and helpful. I have fixed the links.