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Antarctica – A Year on Ice (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Antarctica - A Year On Ice

Antarctica – A Year On Ice


Featuring Genovieve Bachman, Tom Hamann, George Lampman, Keri Nelson, Rob McPhail, Casey O’Brien, Anthony Powell, Christine Powell, David Prutzman, Matt Sissman, Josh Swanson and Andrew Velman.

Directed by Anthony Powell.

Distributed by Music Box Pictures.  92 minutes.  Not Rated.

Antarctica may be the single utopia left on Earth, as is pointed out early and smartly in this look at the lives of the 700 people who annually spend an entire year in the frigid and gorgeous landscape of the planet’s least inhabited continent.

Politically, 30 different nations share the continent and work in unity for scientific exploration and cooperation.  People from all areas of the planet go down to spend time in the gorgeous vistas of Antarctica.  There are a series of bases sprinkled over the area of the landmass, and they all work together for the greater good of the world.

A group of scientists and workers go down annually – usually about 2,300 spend the summer on the continent and only 700 stay an entire year round – and settle into a strangely communal world that revolves around science, exploration and hard work.

Director Anthony Powell is one of those workers, who has spent several years on Antarctica and decided to chronicle the very different world that has developed among the ice and the penguins.

Antarctica: A Year on Ice explores life on the frigid continent – from vital survival information to more simple but still important tips like, “Don’t mix up your water bottle and your pee bottle.”

Some things are not exactly looked into enough.  For example the problems of climate change on the continent are almost completely ignored here.  No discussion of melting glaciers, no exploration of how it is affecting the local wildlife, nor even really any acknowledgement that it is a potential problem.

They also do not explain all the rules of the settlements.  A scene where a lost seal is dying in the middle of a landmass is heartbreaking.  The whole time the audience is wondering why the hell the people filming the poor animal are not helping it.  However, the narrator say simply that the rules prohibit them interfering with nature’s course, without ever giving a clue of why.  Yes, I can see not recklessly interacting with the wildlife, but would it really be such a crime to help the poor creature get back to water?

On a much more basic level, the film only shows very few women on the base.  How do the people handle their social interactions in such a male-dominated world?  Other than a brief bit where the director gets married on base, romantic relationships are pretty much ignored – blown off with this short saying about the quality of dates for the way-outnumbered women of Antarctica: “The odds are good, but the good are odd.”  Later, during the ending credits, one of the guys offhandedly admits that they start off thinking about women, but quickly it becomes so impossible to imagine that they start spending their time fantasizing about food.

However, despite these tiny flaws, the footage captured in Antarctica: A Year on Ice is so stunningly beautiful that it is hard to get too concerned about any of the film’s small faults.

Despite the glowing words in the film of the people who make their lives in Antarctica, the whole idea of visiting Antarctica to live and work does not really personally appeal to me at all.  However, I am extremely grateful for the ability to visit such a spectacularly scenic area from the relative safety and comfort of a theater.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: November 28, 2014. 

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