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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, August 2005

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

There's a certain verve and passion among filmmakers who willfully spend months out of the year in unforgiving conditions, observing and documenting the rituals and habits of exotic creatures. There's a fascination--a yearning, even--among humans to locate some symbiosis, some commonality with creatures fundamentally different from us. Perhaps it's the basic needs of food, sex, family, home and community, or perhaps it's the predatory, tribal and territorial instincts. The animal kingdom sustains our gaze, and we wonder if the fourth wall between nature and man serves to protect nus from our fantasies of peace and harmony with wildlife.

Luc Jacquet's March of the Penguins, screening in theaters this summer, takes us to one of the most foreboding places on the planet, Antarctica, to follow the long journey of the emperor penguins across the tundra as part of their annual mating and breeding liturgy. Darianna Cardilli talks to Jacquet about the challenges of rendering a poetic narrative while withstanding blizzards, 100 mph winds and -40° F.

The very first program that aired on Discovery Channel when it was launched 20 years ago was Iceberg Alley, which documents another annual occurrence-the arrival of icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, from glaciers in Greenland. Not quite as scintillating as the swallows returning to Capistrano, but enough to presage what would be a global empire of 14 channels in 160 countries. International Documentary gets the two-decade lowdown from Discovery Networks President Billy Campbell about programming, international expansion and the challenges of staying profitable while remaining true to the nonfiction roots, while the independent community weighs in with its assessment of how the working dynamic with Discovery has changed over the years.

Elsewhere on the television dial, the PBS series Natural Heroes is gearing up for its second season of environmental programming. Ron Sutton catches up with Barry Lewis of GreenTreks Network, the production company behind the series, about how the series and the company came into being.

Finally, one might not think of the US National Park Service as a media-producing entity, but for filmmaker John Grabowska, the government agency has served as a source of employment for the past ten years. Out of its media design center, Grabowska has produced, written and directed eight films, including his latest: Remembered Earth, about the land and landscapes of New Mexico. Bob Fisher catches up with Grabowska about how he captured this famously beautiful terrain on film.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White