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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Antarctica: A Year on Ice is a documentary about workers at research stations who spend the winter months keeping things operational. It doesn't discuss exactly what the facilities do, focusing instead on regular workers, administrators, maintenance people, clerks, etc., and their physical and emotional experiences in a very remote place. Ultimately the movie celebrates teamwork and people from all different cultures coming together and cooperating. There's mention of urine and human waste, and dead and lost animals are shown; the humans aren't allowed to interfere with nature in any way, which includes helping the animals (seeing animals suffer without intervention may be upsetting for sensitive viewers). Language is limited to one use of "hell." A couple falls in love and marries; they kiss. Some brief comical drinking is shown.
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What's the story?
At several Antarctic research stations, many scientists, engineers, technicians, and other experts live and work during the summer months, when the sun can be seen in the sky (and during one period, never completely sets) in ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON THE ICE. During the winter months, a handful of brave souls stays behind to endure storms, isolation, disorientation, and a brutal number of weeks when the sun completely disappears. Filmmaker Anthony Powell keeps his cameras rolling in the bitter cold, picking up incredible time-lapse images, interviews with workers, and moments of jubilance, heartbreak, and truly astounding confrontations between man and nature at its most intense.
Is it any good?
Though life in Antarctica is challenging, this absorbing movie makes it look incredibly rewarding. Powell apparently spent 10 years making Antarctica: A Year on Ice, suffering frozen camera equipment and other setbacks. He doesn't focus on what the stations actually research, he rarely interviews scientists, and the climate crisis is only briefly alluded to. Rather, he focuses on everyday workers, mechanics, clerks, and administrators who help run things. The summer season then sharply clashes with the intense physical and emotional experience of a few dozen souls braving the winter months.
Powell doesn't let tiny details slip by -- like frozen bathroom pipes, 200-mile-an-hour winds, cravings for fresh vegetables, missing out on family events back home, and the very odd "T3 Syndrome," wherein workers very simply forget things they were doing just moments before. Workers aren't allowed to interfere with nature, so they can't rescue a lost baby seal, but they are allowed to fall in love, and Powell gets his own happy ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether spending a year in Antarctica seems enticing or frightening. What do the people in Antarctica: A Year on Ice experience? What do they have to do without?
What kinds of things can be learned from Antarctica?
Why aren't the humans allowed to interfere with nature in any way?
Why do you think people work together so well in this remote place?
- In theaters: November 28, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: April 14, 2015
- Cast: Anthony Powell, Christine Powell, Keri Nelson
- Director: Anthony Powell
- Studio: Music Box Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements and language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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