While it still absolutely amazes me that anyone can refute or deny that climate change is happening and changing the complexion of our planet, it doesn’t hurt to have as much ammunition to use to back it all up. Director Dena Seidel‘s Antarctic Edge: 70° South is in depth look at one of many projects scientists are undertaking to measure the damage being done to Antarctica and thus to the Earth.
The film follows a group of scientists on their yearly sojourn to the western peninsula of Antarctica to conduct a series of tests covering everything from the amount of ice melt to the amount of krill in the water to the Adelie penguin populations and whether they are flourishing or not. And what is stressed is that Antarctica basically sets the tone for the weather on Earth. Because of the currents that swirl around it and push water throughout the planet, its health is of ultimate importance. As the Antarctic ice/snow melt, not only does the surface area that reflects sun/heat back into the atmosphere get smaller, but the water temperature rises allowing for massive storms like Hurricane Sandy to form as well as cut the ocean’s ability to trap carbon, which is phytoplankton use for photosynthesis to grow who, in turn, serve as food for krill who are likewise eaten by whales and penguins. Whew. So needless to say, this complicated series of events taking place in Antarctica effect the entire planet.
Where Seidel really excels is presenting this complex information in a way that is comsumable for an average, non-science savvy viewer. The scientists, from the ornithologists studying the penguins to those studying the amount of carbon in krill urine, to the crew on the ship carrying these folks, are all incredibly charismatic and relatable. Without this, the material being presented might better be suited for a TedTalk than a documentary. This is a film that teaches as it unfolds, which is key. There has been several other Antarctica-focused films that have come out in the last few years, chief among them are Werner Herzog‘s Encounters at the End of the World and Anthony Powell‘s Antarctica: A Year on the Ice (read my review here), but none of them tackle this particular aspect of the Antarctic story. This film fills a unique space in the lore of the least populated continent on the planet and that brings the challenges that not only the continent faces but the Earth does to the forefront. And while there are many lasting images and warnings in the film, perhaps the most moving is by Philippines Climate Commissioner Naderev Sano, whose testimony at the very outset of the film highlighting what Super Typhoon Haiyan did to his country (as well as many other climate-related events) and the need for action. While I can’t find the specific clip in the film, this one covers some of the same pleas he makes.
At 72 minutes, this film won’t hit you over the head with the information it presents. While the message the film contains is somewhat dire, it still has tinges of hope. What needs to be done to reverse climate change rests on the shoulders of the humans inhabiting the planet. Hopefully this film will add to the voices yelling in favor of action. I really enjoyed this film and I hope many more do as well.
Antarctic Edge: 70° South opens today at Quad Cinema in New York City. Here is a list of other upcoming screenings.
Here’s the trailer: