Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Documenting the Documenters

This year, as part of our project, we are making an educational movie about penguins. Ian and Grant have been filming a lot of footage of Adélie and emperor penguins and Weddell seals and recording sounds using equipment generously loaned by Cornell's Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.

Here are some images of the documenters at work:

Ian filming Adélie Penguins on Beaufort Island

Grant filming on Beaufort

Grant and Ian taking in a view of the frozen Ross Sea

We have also been fortunate to cross paths with filmmaker Werner Herzog. He and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger and musician/producer/SCUBA diver Henry Kaiser are here on an NSF artists and writers grant working on a documentary about Antarctica, or Antarctic researchers, or both (didn't elaborate).

When I first passed Herzog in the lab hallway at McMurdo I mistook him for a professor I vaguely know from Stanford University - my brain was trying to place him in the familiar realm. Thus I embarrassed myself right off the bat, though he seemed mildly flattered to be mistaken for a professor, and wanted to know what kind of research this professor does. He studies climate change; "ah, climate change! interesting subject" he said in his elegant Bavarian accent.

Yesterday Herzog and Zeitlinger came to Cape Royds to film the penguins and interview David Ainley, our project leader. Herzog sat David down on a cliff overseeing the colony and asked challenging, interesting, and increasingly personal questions. It was fully unscripted. Two humans with famously difficult personalities faced each other on a cliff overlooking the frozen sea while one mostly listened and the other spoke of the feeling of one's smallness in the face of Antarctica's vastness, his (literally) dreams of overcoming the sea and becoming a seabird biologist, penguin social and anti-social behaviors, and the notion of morphing into a penguin. I'll leave the rest up to your imagination, or you can see for yourself if and when Herzog's Antarctic footage is released.

I wish I had one of our video cameras so I could film Herzog filming us filming him ... that would have put an interesting twist in our penguin movie!

Peter Zeitlinger (filming) and Werner Herzog (middle) interviewing David Ainley at Cape Royds

David Ainley (left) and Werner Herzog with the Transantarctic Mountains in the background


At 7:01 AM, Blogger randy said...

Werner Herzog? Awesome! I have to send your post to some friends who are also big cinema buffs. Way cool! - Randy


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