A once-in-a-lifetime journey with Antarctica’s 21st century explorers
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Anne Aghion takes you on an adventure in one of earth’s most remote locations – Antarctica. Aghion joins geologists Allan Ashworth and Adam R. Lewis as they explore Antarctica’s Dry Valleys in search of remnants of ancient life.
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.
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.
Anne Aghion - Director & Producer
Nadia Ben Rachid - Editor
Sylvestre Guidi - Director of Photography
Richard Fleming - Sound Recordist
Benoit Gryspeerdt - Producer
Laurent Petitgand - Composer
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.
“Everything that you don’t expect it to be, and that’s the work of a great film… It pulls you in–you feel like you’re inside what’s happening… Netflix, why isn’t this on my queue list?!”
—Larry Flick, OutQ In The Morning
“Want to know what it’s really like to live and work in Antarctica? You’ll probably have to get a job and go there yourself but the next closest thing to actually experiencing the harshest of continents for yourself is to watch Anne Aghion’s Ice People.”
—Will Brubaker, Vagabumming.com
Critics Pick! “Immersive, mesmerizing”
—New York Magazine
“Instantly compelling… Ice People sticks in the mind.”
—Nathan Lee, The New York Times
“It’s an earthbound, stubbornly unromantic depiction of Antarctica’s modern-day explorers…”
—Darrell Hartman, ArtForum
“Majestically shot…the film is a uniquely meditative, psychological portrait of individuals who approach scientific exploration with the passion and fervor of artists.”
—Andrew Grant, TimeOut New York
“A compelling portrait of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth…”
—Neil Pedley, The Independent Film Channel
“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
“A tranquil meditation.”
—Omar P.L. Moore, The Popcorn Reel
“A work of art. Director Anne Aghion tells us something important about the processes of artistic and scientific creation.”
—Haim Watzman, SouthJerusalem.com
“Is anything weirder, more interesting, and fraught with potential than places where humans never go?”
—Lindy West, The Stranger: SLOG: News and Arts
“Ice People takes you to scientists’ extreme lab… the film portrays the cold, grueling, sometimes backbreaking work of four American geologists in search of 14-million-year-old fossils.”
—Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
“The movie… gives viewers a glimpse of a side of science that is rarely seen.”
—Edyta Zielinska, Scientist.com
“A compelling human story that serves as a counterpoint to the iconic Antarctic images of penguins and ice… ICE PEOPLE weaves a meditative spell that lingers long after the movie ends.”
—Carolyn Gramling, EARTH Magazine
“An intriguing slice-of-life that observes the area’s staggeringly beautiful and imposing landscapes and the unique challenges experienced by those who work there. Pic should score broadcast sales in numerous territories.”
—Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Anne Aghion’s Ice People, a film about explorers in Antarctica that might be the most immersive documentary I’ve ever seen.”
—Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
“Documentary filmmaker Anne Aghion follows research geologists… as they pick their way across Antarctica’s interior dry valleys, eventually discovering–in front of Aghion’s camera!–plant and animal fossils that prove the ice shelf at the bottom of the world was once green…. Highly recommended!”
—Jennifer Merin, About.com Guide to Documentaries
“A remarkable visual testament of life seen against the extraordinary backdrop of the beautiiful but bleak environment of Antarctica… Highly recommended.”
“An intriguing, focused and often captivating documentary filled with stunningly beautiful cinematography of the Antarctic landscape.”
—The NYC Movie Guru
“A return to… the exploits of the brave men and women who threw themselves into such hostile landscapes, and the narrative of the expedition itself. Now we consider such people scientists of various stripes, but back during the “Age of Heroic Exploration,” they were called adventurers.”
—Farihah Zaman, Reverse Shot
“I have seen hundreds of science films, and ICE PEOPLE is unique in the way it portrays what it’s really like to do field science. Also, this is some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen of the Dry Valleys—it’s the first time anyone has captured in motion picture the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ feel of Antarctica.”
—Tom Wagner, Program Director for Antarctic Earth Sciences, U.S. National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs
“The movie is art.”
—Guy Guthridge, Former head of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program
“I recommend this film to anyone who has ever wondered what it’s actually like in the Antarctic.”
—Sara Wheeler, Author, Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica
—Educational Media Reviews Online
“Aghion covers the scientists’ daily life, while also bearing witness to the geologists’ findings about climate change, with the discovery of a green Antarctica that disappeared after a sudden shift in the temperature of the continent over 14 million years ago. Top that, Herzog!”
“Scenes of scientific discovery are woven together with majestic shots of Antarctica’s landscape.”
—Virginia Prescott, New Hampshire Public Radio
“Finds the beauty that emerges between… the routine tasks of the polar explorers”
—Andrew Schenker, Slant Magazine
“Aghion documentary evokes the majesty of Antarctica.”
—Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Sun
“Meditative, quiet and visually lovely glimpse at the lives of four geologists… in Antarctica.”
—Satellite Hebdo (Leading French TV Magazine)
“…the gritty, quotidian nature of science.”
—Brian Miller, Seattle Weekly
sales / streaming
- Institutions (Colleges/Universities): $390 Buy Now
- Community Groups/ Public Libraries/ High Schools: $150 Buy Now
EDUCATIONAL USE RIGHTS: DVDs are licensed with Public Performance Rights for non-commercial and educational exhibition when no admission fee is charged. DVDs are “Leased for the life of the media.” Detailed licensing information (pdf). Available formats: HDcam, DIGIBETA, Dvcam, DVD. In English. High Definition, 5.0 Sound Mix. 77 minutes. DVDs may be purchased online via PayPal. Otherwise please order on official institutional letterhead, by Purchase Order, or pay by check in advance of shipping.
For screening rentals and speaking engagements, please contact us.