Another ‘grabbed-from-the-television-headlines’ effort that’s part of the “Shorts Program: Face the Music” at this year’s AFI DOCS, “Fast Ice: Rescue From Antarctica” concerns a story less than six months old: the trapping in the East Antarctica ice on last December 24th of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.
Yeah, Antarctica. Home to stunning landscapes, incredible sunsets, majestic icebergs, cute, adorable penguins, and lazy seals. And some danger (pushed by an overly dramatic score) aboard the Russian vessel with 52 people aboard—scientists, passengers, crew. Talking heads abound (expedition leaders, a historian, marine ecologists, just-plain-passengers, etc.) but so does the ice. It is vast. And it’s not even IMAX!
Otherwise, it’s a by-the-numbers documentary courtesy of filmmaker Laurence Topham, tracing the ship as it leaves New Zealand in early December. As it approaches the earth’s southernmost continent at Commonwealth Bay, the seas were still liquid. Actually the ship runs into trouble just where their title says it does. Fast ice is the term for ice that extends out from the shore. But, when you’re stuck this bad, you really can only do one thing. Pray that the nearby icebergs don’t cozy up too close. And…
Call. For. Help.
The Chinese Icebreaker Xue Long diverts to tries to assist in the days after Christmas. Close, but no banana—and it gets stuck, too. Next up, the Aurora Australis, which was actually tasked to assist with the rescue. It gets close enough to send a helicopter that offloads all those stuck folks.
Rescue complete. Film over. A simple diversion—which you can watch here, gratis, courtesy of The Guardian, which underwrote the film.