Interview: "March of the Penguins" Director Luc Jacquet

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
June 24, 2005

March of the Penguins, the latest movie from National Geographic Feature Films, tells the remarkable story of emperor penguins and their annual migration across the treacherous ice of Antarctica.

Each winter, the penguins journey for hundreds of miles to reach their traditional breeding ground where, after a ritual courtship, they pair off into monogamous couples and mate.

After laying a single egg, the females make their perilous return to the fish-filled seas. The males are left behind to guard and hatch the eggs, which they cradle at all times on top of their feet, even during blinding blizzards.

After two months, during which the males eat nothing, the eggs begin to hatch. But if the mothers are late returning from the ocean with food, the newly hatched chicks will die.

French director Luc Jacquet followed the extraordinary journey of the penguins. He spoke with National Geographic News about the challenges of making March of the Penguins, which opens in select cities today.

You have a background as a biologist. How did your interest in the penguins come about?

In 1992 I spent 14 months at the French [scientific center] in Antarctica [doing research]. I had also been a cameraman on another movie, The Congress of the Penguins. I am particularly inspired by the sheer beauty of Antarctica, and I felt this was a great story for the movies—the penguins living on [the] razor's edge. The story has all the elements of great drama—love, life, death.

In the film, the narration comes from the penguins' perspective—we're hearing their thoughts. Why did you choose this storytelling technique?

I wanted to get out of the documentary genre. I wanted to write a story that made the viewer feel like [he or she] was really right there with the penguins.

Some would say you have to be crazy to spend more than a year in such an inhospitable environment.

Some people like to climb mountains, others like to cross the desert or the sea. I feel particularly comfortable in the polar environment. One gets a real sense of adventure there. Yes, you encounter a lot of difficulties. But once you stay there, your body somehow adapts. Over time you learn to deal with the terrific wind, which in some ways is worse than the cold temperatures, and you learn to minimize body movement.

What makes Antarctica so beautiful to you?

Continued on Next Page >>


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