You’ll be amazed by their journey. You’ll marvel at their fortitude. But more than any of that, you’ll be struck by a simple thought while watching this year’s breakout hit documentary: Thank God I am not a penguin. After all, spending nine months a year withstanding blizzard conditions and 70-mile hikes with little or no food just to hatch a single egg is pretty extreme. Which is why if you come into March of the Penguins anticipating lots of tuxedoed goofballs with little wool caps à la Chilly Willy, then you’re in for a revelatory treat. And it seems the filmmakers themselves were surprised. In the 54-minute accompanying documentary, ”Of Penguins and Men,” cinematographer Jérôme Maison discusses how two years of research on the emperor penguin prior to filming did not prepare him for what they encountered. ”We thought that they would be comical,” he says of his waddling subjects. ”But they are truly regal.”
This doc on the doc covers some of the same material, but it also offers a compelling look into many of the hardships endured by the cameramen along the way, including bundling up in six layers of clothing every day, getting completely lost in a whiteout, and suffering such medical maladies as frostbite and a busted knee that required a full month off from filming. (We also learn that sucking helium is as good a way to pass the time in Antarctica as it is here.) There’s even a second documentary by National Geographic that has a camera awkwardly strapped onto a penguin’s back so we can watch the underwater world from the bird’s point of view. The contraption looks pretty ridiculous — the only thing missing is the little wool cap.