2005 Running time: 80 Certificate: u Rating: 3

Synopsis

Every year, thousands of Emperor penguins trudge over 70 miles of ice to their Antarctic breeding grounds. And that's the easy part. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this Best Documentary Feature Oscar-winner commands incredible displays of determination, stamina, teamwork, loss and devotion from its freeze-resistant stars. Often regarded as figures of fun, these creatures really deserve our utmost admiration and respect.

Director

  • Luc Jacquet

Cast

  • Morgan Freeman

Review

Q: What's black and white and made America's major studios green all over?

A: An $8 million documentary about penguins that finished higher in the box office pecking order than many of 2005s mass-marketed blockbusters.

Over one mating season, we follow a 'clan' of Emperors as they migrate to a place relatively free of predators where the ice won't thaw too early.

Once there, each finds a mate, then the happy couple wait for their courtship to bear fruit. When it does, custody of the egg passes carefully from female to male and she makes the long trip back to the sea for food.

Father now oversees the incubation and hatching process until mother returns. Then, after over four months without food, he gets to make the 140-mile relay.

Most of this takes place in near-permanent darkness and in temperatures low enough to sterilise brass monkeys (minus 70 degrees before taking into account the nigh-on 100mph windchill factor). Inevitably, many eggs, chicks and adults don't survive. Fun, no?

For a warm-blooded species to exist in such a harsh environment is one of the more unfathomable quirks of evolution. But despite all the hardship and heartache on show, this beautifully shot film is always rewarding and often a lot of fun.

The chicks are adorable but people reserve a soft spot for penguins because of their uncannily, comically human-like behaviour. To see them marching single-file across the icy wastes is like watching so many marathon runners all wearing the same costume.

And the scenes of huge protective huddles and frequent acts of tenderness are enough to melt hearts in the fiercest snowstorm.

Come the awards season, don't bet against this family-friendly venture from p-p-p-picking up a Best Documentary gong or two.

Elliott Noble

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