They say actors should never work with animals, but for directors who are gifted with patience, curiosity, and a keen eye for the nuances of spontaneous behavior, there are few better subjects. The French have proved to be particularly good at such films, and in recent years they have treated us to such nature flicks as Microcosmos and Winged Migration. Now we can add March of the Penguins, Luc Jacquet's documentary about the breeding habits of one of the world's largest flightless birds, to the menagerie.
The film should find an especially appreciative audience among younger children and their parents. There is something naturally funny about penguins—the way they waddle as though their pants won't stay up, the way their elegant appearance seems at odds with their clumsiness—and the children at the screening I attended found it all quite amusing. For parents, the educational value of the film (it's produced by National Geographic) is a definite bonus.
The story begins in March, when the southern hemisphere's summer comes to an end and the birds begin their slow, single-file march towards the old breeding grounds. Their pilgrimage ends dozens of miles from the water, in a place where the ice floor is thick and safe, and the walls surrounding the penguins can protect them from the wind. The birds spend some weeks looking for mates (the males are in short supply, so the females tend to fight over them), and in June, the lucky mothers give birth to an egg.
The film goes out of its way to stress the commonalities between penguins and their human observers. Emperor penguins are serially monogamous, finding a different partner every year but sticking to that partner for the duration of the mating season; and since the ...1
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March of the Penguins
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