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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

The March of the Penguins
A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)

Emperor penguins overcome daunting obstacles in order to return to their breeding grounds for mating season. This tells the story of one year in the life of a flock -- focusing on one couple in particular -- as they trek across the Antarctic on an annual journey that invokes just about every major life experience: from birth to death, from dating to mating, from comedy to tragedy, and from love to fighting for survival.

One of the surprise hits of the summer has been this beautiful, G-rated documentary on penguins in Antarctica. Who would have guessed? After hearing so much about it, I ventured out to the theater on a sweltering August afternoon prepared to cool off.

The movie opens with narrator Morgan Freeman telling the viewers that the average temperature in Antarctica was -58 degrees. When I heard that, I knew I made the right choice. I settled down as our hero penguins waddled into view.

Then Freeman announces that Penguins is really a love story. A love story, about penguins? Yeah, right! My skepticism faded as the story progressed. Maybe it really is a story of love in its different forms. It is a story of the love between male and female, parent and child, and, ultimately, even creation itself. The incredible endurance of the penguins against the harshest terrain on earth is an incredible story of endurance and purpose.

The documentary follows a group of penguins on their annual seven-day trek each March to the place where they will mate and give birth to their chicks. This ordeal lasts throughout the harshest winter on the planet all the way through to November, their spring. During this time, the only thing that protects the penguins from the incredible cold is their own fur, and the community huddled together. It’s an ordeal that many will not survive.

One of the most fascinating elements is the way the male and female share parenting tasks. The male shelters the egg while the female goes off for a period of weeks in search of food. During this time, the egg hatches and the male protects and feeds the chick till the mother returns. It’s amazing to watch mother and father carefully, yet quickly, pass the egg from one to the other, protecting it from the bitter cold. Their dedication to the young, and the sheer perseverance and steadfastness in the face of enormous natural obstacles, is awesome.

Frenchman Luc Jacquet directs this National Geographic Production. National Geographic’s long tradition of amazing nature photography is very much in evidence here. Many times I was amazed, not only by the dedication of the penguins to their task, but by the crew’s ability to get such amazing close up shots without ruffling any feathers!

Ultimately, Penguins is much more than stunning photography. It is often remarkably touching. Amidst a sea of black and white, mother or father search for their lost chick by listening to its distinctive voice. It’s not only the good shepherd who hears the voice of the lost sheep! The mournful cry of the penguin whose chick dies of the cold truly touches the heart. And, yes, lest you wonder if the movie is too serious, we do have opportunities to laugh at the funny waddle of these birds in their Domincan colors.

No matter what, year after year, the penguins will continue to march on in the harshest environment on earth. In their constancy, their commitment to life, endurance in hardship, and even sense of humor, these remarkable penguins reflect the glory of their Creator. Hallelujah!

Tom Condon, O.P.

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