|8:30||Live music by Sunset|
Polar Explorer (Nikolay Volkov | Russia | 39 min.)
Tomash Petrovsky is an arctic explorer, fascinated by the hypnotic power of the shifting ice, drawn to the dynamic wasteland that surrounds the eerie power of the magnetic pole. The basis of his life includes taking a helicopter through a blizzard to a hulking, dazzlingly frozen boat; avoiding giant bears swimming through the black water; coping with sunless days and subfreezing temperatures. His elderly mother, for one, can't fathom why he goes: when she was young, Soviet citizens were sent to places like that as punishment. Certainly life on his summery green farm seems much more pleasurable.
Still, in this exquisite, delicately-constructed film, there are obvious delights to the polar life: watching adorable bear cubs frolic in the floes, creating a bond with the other workers (and work dogs), the important scientific research they are conducting, and, of course, the all-consuming beauty of the white landscape, breaking apart spectacularly under the red-painted jaws of their ship or the immense pressure of unthinkable amounts of ice.
When the huskies begin to fight, like canaries in a coalmine, they indicate to the crew that trouble is afoot. But there's little they can do when those breathtaking ice movements scatter their camp, sinking Petrovsky's own home and nearly killing him. But as Russian polar explorers, Petrovsky and his crew demonstrate the unbelievably stoic determination that is the key emotion explored in this daring documentary.
-Mark Elijah Rosenberg