I had been following the work of Anthony Powell since coming across his great videos of Antarctica (including, intriguingly, some that he made as part of the Antarctica 48 hour film festival) on his YouTube channel several years ago. Recently, I was delighted to learn that his feature-length documentary, Antarctica: A Year on Ice -- which I had read about with anticipation -- had been released and was available for viewing on Netflix.
It has been a long time since I've seen a film of such stunning visual beauty. Powell takes the approach of documenting the winter season in Antarctica, when a dedicated team comes together to work at the McMurdo Station. Once the last plane leaves for the season at the end of the summer, the team is committed to the six month duration of their stay, to work and help contribute to operations at the base. Interspersed between the interviews with different team members, which give us fascinating glimpses of how the individuals live and work and deal with the conditions, he presents breathtaking time-lapse views of the sky and snow, of the vast white landscapes that make up the continent. It is in these shots, capturing the power and beauty of nature, that the film is at its strongest.
Powell does a remarkable job capturing both the sweeping landscapes as well as the small details of life in Antarctica. His documentary is a valuable record of an experience that most people will never have for themselves, and presents both the challenges and highlights of what are clearly strenuous and extreme working conditions, and the personal friendships and rewards that come from the shared experience. Powell's photographic skill and eye for poetic images raise the film above the level of the kind of documentary you might see on a cable TV network -- Antarctica: A Year on Ice is a stunning and personal work of art.
Antarctica: A Year On Ice International Trailer from Anthony Powell on Vimeo.