About the Film
Unique in the genre of exploration and adventure films, Ice People takes you on one of the earth's most seductive journeys - Antarctica. Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Anne Aghion spent four months "on the ice" with modern-day polar explorers, to find out what drives dedicated researchers to leave the world behind in pursuit of science, and to capture the true experience of living and working in this extreme environment. And, as it turns out, the film also witnesses one of the most significant discoveries about climate change in recent Antarctic science.
Intense public focus on climate change has turned the shores of Antarctica into a new tourist mecca, making the earth's coldest continent the hot place to be. But, inland from the penguins and ice floes is a magical Antarctica of volcanoes, boulder-strewn valleys and ominous glaciers. Only a small number of scientific research teams get there, braving severe conditions to learn about our planet's history, and make predictions about our future.
Ice People heads out into the "deep field" with noted geologists Allan Ashworth and Adam Lewis, and two undergrad scientists-in-the-making, where they scour across hundreds of miles to find tiny, critical signs of ancient life. Their findings would give the first evidence of a green Antarctica over 14 million years ago, that disappeared with a sudden shift in the temperature of the continent.
The most authentic film about life on the ice since the trailblazing expeditions to Antarctica chronicled nearly a century ago, Ice People conveys the vast beauty, the claustrophobia, the excitement and the stillness of an experience set to nature's rhythm.
Allan Ashworth and Adam Lewis
Professor Ashworth's significant contributions to the natural sciences have led to an Antarctic glacier and four species of beetles being named after him. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the history of life on Earth, sedimentology and paleontology (the study of prehistoric life forms) at North Dakota State University in Fargo. His long-term paleoecological research has focused on the response of organisms to climate change.
His fossil-based research in Antarctica focuses on the ecology and biogeography of an extinct Transantarctic mountain ecosystem which existed before 15 million years ago.
He also has interests in integrating fossil and modern studies to predict responses of beetles to global warming as part of longer term conservation efforts, and is collaborating on interdisciplinary studies to understand the history of these insects in the Pacific Northwest, North Dakota and southern Chile. He has traveled widely during the course of a long career and has conducted field studies in Asia, Europe, North and South America, and in remote locations from Baffin Island to the Transantarctic Mountains.
Ashworth is chair of the United States National Committee for Quaternary Research and Vice-President for the International Quaternary Association; both organizations are interested in the interdisciplinary study of the history of the natural environment during the Quaternary period—roughly covering the past 1.8 million years.
A native of southern England, Ashworth graduated from the University of Birmingham before moving to the United States.
A veteran of seven research seasons in Antarctica—working out to about a year-and-a-half in tents in the deep field—Dr. Adam Lewis is considered one of the world's top experts on the glacial geology of the Transantarctic Mountains.
His research centers on understanding the role that Antarctica has played in earth's climate evolution, he has helped to show that the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet shifted from a dynamic temperate-style configuration to its current sluggish, cold-based configuration about 14 million years ago - and that little has happened since.
Originally from Blackfoot, Idaho, he became interested in geology at an early age accompanying his father—a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survery--on field trips. After obtaining his B.S. from Idaho State University, he worked for several years in the private sector as an environmental geologist. In a student career marked by numerous honors and awards, he earned an MS in Quaternary Science from the University of Maine in 2000, and his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from Boston University in 2005.
Both his Masters and Doctoral theses focused on his Antarctic research. During his field work, Lewis became interested in interdisciplinary examination of the region when he and a fellow student discovered extremely ancient lake sediments, including evidence of plants and insects, while trying to track the glacial history of the continent's Olympus Range. This eventually led to the current collaboration with Professor Allan Ashworth, also in association with Professor David Marchant of Boston University.
Before joining the faculty in Fargo in the Spring of 2007, Lewis comes to NDSU from Ohio State University in Columbus where he did post-doctoral research as the Byrd Fellow at the Byrd Polar Research Center.
Directed by Anne Aghion
Produced by Benoît Gryspeerdt & Anne Aghion
Edited by Nadia Ben Rachid
Cinematography by Sylvestre Guidi
Sound Recording by Richard Fleming
Original score by Laurent Petitgand
Sound Design by Roland Duboué & Béatrice Wick
Sound Mix by Nathalie Vidal
Produced with a grant from the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, with major support from the European Commission Directorate General for Research. Additional support from the Centre National de la Cinématographie, the Conseil Régional de la Région Rhône-Alpes, the Conseil Général de l'Ardèche, the SACEM, RTBF (Belgian Television) & SBS (Australia). Developed under the auspices of Eurodoc, with funding from the Media Program's New Talent fund of the European Commission.
In English. High Definition, 5.0 Sound Mix. 77 minutes.
IcePeople.com photo credits: Anne Aghion, Allan Ashworth, Richard Fleming, Sylvestre Guidi, Adam Lewis, Peter Rejcek from The Antarctic Sun and Helen Thompson.
"Moody, atmospheric and often refreshingly down-to-earth, it's not quite like any previous film about Antarctica. The director, Anne Aghion, likes to fill the screen with the kinds of lonely landscapes that David Lean once used to suggest another kind of desert." - John Hartl, The Seattle Times (pdf)