Antarctica: A Year on Ice

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Anthony Powell’s spectacular footage was meticulously gathered over 15 years, including nine Antarctic winters.

Director: Anthony Powell
Year: 2013
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 92 mins

Producer/Photography: Anthony Powell
Consulting producer: Costa Botes
Editor: Simon Price
Dialogue editor: Chris Todd
Sound: Tim Prebble
Music: Plan 9

World Premiere

Filling the giant screen with stunning time-lapse vistas of Antarctica, and detailing year-round life at McMurdo Station and Scott Base, Anthony Powell’s documentary is a potent hymn to the icy continent and the heavens above. It is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Powell has been a regular denizen since 1998, working three years at Scott as telecom technician, another six winters at the US base McMurdo as a satellite engineer, and subsequent summers in other technical roles. Determined to convey the primal splendour of the environment – and humanity’s tenuous foothold there – Powell, a self-taught photographer and filmmaker, designed and built camera systems that could function in the extreme cold of the Antarctic winter. In the summer of 2007 he received a National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Grant to work full time on time-lapse photography and filming. His clips have amassed a huge global audience on YouTube and other sites. They cry out for massively bigger screens.

The spectacular footage has been integrated with a pleasing lightness of touch into a fascinating, often funny, insider account of what it’s like to work and live and play on the ice. Seasoned workers – firemen, managers, technicians, the shopkeeper – consider the reasons they keep returning – or never want to leave. Social distinctions and psychological quirks are shrewdly observed: the winterovers sheepishly admit the resentment they feel when summer workers arrive with the return of the sun. Once you have seen the star-flooded mid-winter night sky above McMurdo you may well understand their jealous exclusivity.