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‘Antarctica: A Year On Ice’ Documentary Is An Underlooked Holiday Treat

antarctica a year on ice

You’ve already sobbed through Big Hero 6. You’ve already seen Mockingjay or Interstellar, or were scared away by middling reviews. You still want to go to the theaters, to escape family or whatever awful thing is happening in the news this week. I recommend searching out Anthony Powell’s Antarctica: A Year On Ice, an absolutely beautiful documentary with astounding images, and a glimpse into nature’s remaining innocence.

The documentary is basically a 92-minute, jaw-dropping screensaver, with enlivening commentary from some of the adventurous souls who make Antarctica their home. If you, like me, have always been curious, always been drawn to Antarctica (except while watching The Thing), A Year On Ice gives us a snapshot of what life actually looks like and is on the lonely continent, where only 700 people make their homes during the insanely harsh winters. It’s a community unlike any other, but no different than anywhere else, with average people making a living, as a fireman, mechanic, at a retail store or as a chef. In between unreal time lapse photography, New Zealand filmmaker Anthony Powell introduces us to many of the people who searched out Antarctica, many with the intention of a year long trip, but stumbled upon a home that the rest of the world will never truly comprehend. Powell’s film is the closest we’ll get to understanding the appeal and lifestyle of the scariest and prettiest place on Earth.

This might be the closest many of us ever get to Antarctica, showing us dream-like images of the Northern (Southern?) Lights, an Adelie penguin colony and other vistas and landscapes that are so beautiful they seem like CGI. Powell tinkered with cameras to help them withstand the conditions of Antarctica, and in so doing, has gifted the world with some of the most beautiful living portraits of mankind’s last (hardly touched) frontier. While it’s completely isolationist, always dark (or always light, depending upon the season), Antarctica is also one of the few places in the world with complete cooperation and peace among its varied residents. This is a “golden age of Antarctica,” and we’re ALL missing it, though that’s precisely why: there’s not enough people there to ruin the last place on Earth that humans haven’t ruined.

GRADE: A-

Antarctica: A Year On Ice opens Friday, November 28, 2014 in limited release, including at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, showing through Thursday, December 4, 2014 for an exclusive one-week engagement. Showtimes are Fri-Mon: 12:30, 2:50, 5:10, 7:30, 9:45; Tue-Thu: 2:50, 5:10, 7:30, 9:45.  Landmark’s Nuart Theatre is at 11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of the 405 Freeway, in West Los Angeles. The film also opens December 5, 2014 at University Town Center in Irvine, Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, and Town Center 5 in Encino. For more release information and theater information across the country, go here.

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