South (BFI)

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History Documentary hosted by Luke McKernan, published by BFI in 1919 - English narration

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Image: South-Cover.jpg

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"South is the film record of Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated but ultimately heroic attempt to cross Antarctica in 1914-16.

As Shackleton was setting out, Britain declared war on Germany. It was to be two years before Shackleton and his men were to learn of the progress of that war, and how utterly changed was the world they had left behind. That romantic world had encouraged a cult of heroism, and it was as a heroic polar explorer that Shackleton wished to be known. He had first journeyed to the Antarctic in 1902 under Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the future rival against whom he would always be compared. In 1908 Shackleton led an expedition that reached the furthest distance south yet achieved, less than 100 miles from the Pole.

The race to the Pole was won by Amundsen's Norwegian tea m in 1911, but the lasting acclaim perversely went to Scott, who followed after Amundsen, and who died with his men on their return. The South Pole had now been attained, and to go one better than Amundsen or Scott, Shackleton planned to cross Antarctica via the Pole. Raising finance was always a huge struggle, and a significant member of Shackleton's expedition was the experienced Australian cameraman Frank Hurley, whose films and photographs would hopefully pay for part of the expedition if they could emulate the success of Herbert Ponting's acclaimed record s of the Scott expedition.

The plan was to land on the Weddell Sea coast and then to cross Antarctica via the Pole to the Ross Sea, being met by a relief party based on the other side of the continent. But within 80 miles of land their ship Endurance became stuck fast in the pack ice. Shackleton and his crew drifted helplessly north for nine months before the ship began to be crushed in the ice. It was abandoned, and sank a month later on 27th November 1915.

Shackleton initially gave the order to abandon as much gear as possible, so as not to encumber their planned march across the ice. This included all of Hurley's films and bulky photographic glass plates. When it became apparent that such a march was wholly impractical, Hurley returned to the ship and dived into the icy waters of the hold to rescue his films. He then faced the heartbreaking task of smashing around 400 of those plates to lighten his load, but took the remaining 150 together with his precious rolls of cine film. Now Shackleton and his men drifted ilQrthwards on ice floes for a further five months, taking three boats with them, eventually reaching the sea and rowing to Elephant Island. There on a desolate shore the bulk of the party were left behind as Shackleton and five others undertook a truly heroic journey by open boat across 800 miles of the wildest of seas until they reached the uninhabited southern shores of South Georgia. Shackleton and two others then crossed the mountainous island to a whaling station. After four rescue attempts Shackleton was able to defeat the pack ice and to rescue his men.

The expedition returned to a Europe plunged into war. In 1919 Shackleton published his written account of the expedition, South, and lectured with Hurley's film and slides as accompaniment. He returned south on his fourth expedition in 1921, but died of a heart attack on South Georgia, where he was buried. He was just 47, and with hispassing the heroic age of polar exploration came to an end.

Hurley's expedition film was first shown as South in 1919, in the version used by Shackleton for his lectures. It was thereafter shown in various forms as both a lecture film and a conventional theatrical release abroad, including in Hurley's native Australia, where it was released as In the Grip of Polar Ice in 1920. In 1933 a sound feature film version was released, entitled Endurance: The Story of a Glorious Failure, with a commentary by Frank Worsley, the ship's captain. Frank Hurley was a superb and courageous photographer, whose intelligent interest in his subject is apparent in every shot. As Hurley was among those left on Elephant Island, there is no film record of the boat journey to South Georgia or its crossing, but Hurley was later sent back to the island to take scenes that would complete the film, including the lengthy sequences of animallife that are quite exceptional for their time. The scenes of Shackleton's triumphant reception in Chile were filmed by a local cameraman.

This restored version of the film has been constructed by the National Film and Television Archive from a wide range of materials, including a print and negative deposited by the distributor Sir William Jury, a tinted print from the Nederlands Filmmuseum, and a set of glass slides that originally accompanied the film and lecture, and which have been incorporated into this print. The NFTVA has applied its own tinting and toning to match the original prints, and has produced this handsome and richly coloured testament to a remarkable episode in the history of exploration."

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Duration: 1h 20mn
  • File size: 1.67 GB
  • Container: MKV
  • Width: 704 pixels
  • Height: 478 pixels
  • Display aspect ratio: 4:3
  • Bit rate: 2950 kbs
  • Frame rate: 23.976 fps
  • Audio Codec: AC3
  • Channel(s): 2 channels
  • Sampling rate: 48.0 KHz
  • Credit goes to: sleepdealer

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