Humankind’s fascination with Antarctica is nothing new. In 1922, Ernest Shackleton gave his life while trying to solve its mysteries, but Antarctica Fever, as a cinematic phenomenon, didn’t kick into high gear until 2000. Since then, George Butler, Werner Herzog, and several other directors have all put their stamps on it. New Zealand communications-technician-turned-filmmaker Anthony Powell doesn’t share their name recognition, but he spent 10 years working on Antarctica: A Year on Ice. There’s a plethora of time-lapse photography in which clouds dance and aurora australis undulate, but he mostly focuses on the 5,000 people who work there during the summer, a number that dwindles to 700 during the winter. Like something from out of a science-fiction novel, it’s a world devoid of children, pets, and grass, yet people of all nations live together in harmony. What outsiders might see as hell—penguin carcasses, mummified seals, terrifying winds—these hardy individuals see as an escape from quotidian life. As a film about Antarctica’s sights and sounds, Powell’s effort pales in comparison with Herzog’s fanciful and idiosyncratic Encounters at the End of the World, but as a film about human beings in extreme isolation, he’s tapped a particularly rich vein. recommended

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