'Antarctic Edge: 70˚ South': Film Review

Courtesy of First Run Features
A so-so educational film about a crucial subject

Scientists spend six weeks on an icebreaker in hazardous waters

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but the fastest-warming place on the planet is, perhaps unintuitively, the Antarctic. A huge chunk of sea ice off the continent's west coast has begun what scientists say is an unstoppable melt; while that's underway, teams of researchers are scrambling to observe its effect on animals, plants, and carbon reserves in the ocean. Joining one six-week mission along the Antarctic Peninsula, Dana Seidel returns with a doc that, while offering first-hand looks at many interesting things, is overshadowed by other similar films both on aesthetic and educational fronts.

22 scientists from different disciplines board this icebreaker ship for a six-week voyage, making stops along the coast to study penguins and gathering other specimens at sea. It's a perilous trip, and stories of past mishaps (a hole torn in the hull; being immobilized by ice for a month) spice up some talk of safety precautions and the stress the non-scientist crew is under.

We hear about populations of penguins that are expected to vanish within five to ten years, watch as humpback whales are biopsied with crossbow-shot darts, and see complicated rigs collecting samples from various depths of the sea, the better to study the movement of krill. Oceanographers explain the massive role changes in the ocean play in climate change, and how what might seem insignificant to a layman (so what if there's less ice down there?) can be world-changing.

Unfortunately, Seidel lays it on a little thick on that front, starting and closing her film with scary-music montages of natural disasters that might as well be the title sequence to a Hollywood disaster film. This Rutgers University-produced doc isn't a Hollywood production, though, and computer-animated material illustrating sea currents or whale movements is jarringly primitive by today's standards.


Production company: Rutgers University

Director-Producer: Dena Seidel

Executive producer: Richard Ludescher

Directors of photography: Dena Seidel, Christopher Linder

Editors: Ryan Harris, Steve Holloway, Dena Seidel

Music: Isaiah McNeill


No rating, 72 minutes