Monday, July 12, 2010

George Butler

George Butler's The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000), based on the book by Caroline Alexander, tells an old-fashioned, low-tech adventure story. The antagonist is Nature; the hero is a man who never got close to his goal of crossing the Antarctic continent on foot. Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton sailed to Antarctica in 1914, but his ship got stuck in ice and eventually sank. Shackleton and his men survived by camping out on the ice, sailing to a barren island in three lifeboats, and then splitting up into two groups to attempt a near-impossible rescue (they returned to England in 1917). Crew member Frank Hurley's motion picture footage and still photographs (some examples, above) help to illustrate a case study of leadership under stress. Shackleton was both dictatorial and nurturing: a genius for keeping his men busy and cheerful, he sacrificed his own comfort for the sake of the crew, but was quick to punish if necessary. Narration voiced by Liam Neeson, interviews with descendants of the expedition, and modern-day footage retracing Shackleton's path perfectly balance Frank Hurley's black-and-white images.
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Documentary Starts Here by Nancy Kalow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.