Gacaca Productions // 2009 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // February 13th, 2010
"We don't come to Antarctica because we are in love with Antarctica. We come to Antarctica because we want a mystery to solve and a challenge."
Ice People opens without dialogue, with some beautiful views of Antarctica at night, showing the lights of civilization against a cold, dark backdrop. For the first three minutes, I almost thought this could be an entry in WLIW's Visions series.
Soon, however, we see -- and hear -- people joking about carrying sunglasses and other aspects of life at McMurdo Station. The music gives way to the ambient noise of the wind, and feet crunching the snow and ice. There are a lot of silent or nearly silent moments in Ice People as viewers get to watch a group of geologists digging up fossils or see the bright colors of their tents against the drab landscape.
Despite often striking visuals, Anne Aghion's Ice People is at times hard to watch. The cinema verite style is meant to let the geologists speak for themselves, but there's no revelation you haven't seen in any other documentary about the icy continent. The documentary also lacks context. There's no narrative explanation, and it doesn't even provide on-screen identification for the people featured (although the names are all listed in the credits, if for some reason you want to take notes and then go back through the film). At times, it just felt like I was watching the home videos of strangers.
I can't criticize the look or sound of the film. Both picture and sound come across well.
The cinema verite nature of the documentary could have been combined with illuminating bonus features to create a more informative package, but there aren't any extras here.
There are interesting moments and comments, so Ice People isn't a total waste of time. But other documentaries, including Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World, have covered this icy ground in more interesting ways.
Guilty of being a good idea that leaves something to be desired in the
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Gacaca Productions
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated