Some of the strangest things happened the other day when I went to see a new film called March Of The Penguins. Was I dreaming, was it real, or had Rod Serling been resurrected just for me that day to take me back into The Twilight Zone?

First of all, I noted that the theater was packed for a Friday afternoon matinee – but the audience DIDN’T consist mostly of teenagers. In fact, they were the smallest audience segment. Amazingly enough, it was a very diverse group comprised of families with kids, seniors with friends and family, and plenty of middle-aged folks like me. I’m 59 and, yes, I know I won’t live to be 118. So, technically, I’m way past middle-aged, but 60 is indeed the new 40. So, mentally and emotionally, I’m far less than middle-aged – so there! Literally, the range was from 5 or 6 years old all the way up to 80 or so.

Imagine that.

Next, except for the laughter and delightful sighs that naturally emanated from responses to the charm and whimsy of the film, the theater was quiet for the entire movie. No cell phones, no people talking to those in nearby seats, just respectful and rapt attention to the screen.

Imagine that.

Next, the film itself was an amazing, beautifully written and utterly compelling story that was gloriously narrated with style, wit, and panache by the inestimable Morgan Freeman. There were no movie stars, and I had read no tabloid sensationalism about the actors, nor stories about bloated budgets and egos. And, as far as I could tell anyway, none of the actors had undergone face lifts, liposuction, or measurement “enhancements”.

Imagine that.

Next, there were no car crashes, no special effects, and there was no violence against men, women, or children. Where there was an indication of violence or sexuality, it was merely suggested in the most tasteful of ways and left entirely to the imagination of everyone in the audience.

Imagine that.

When the film was over, there was generous applause from the audience and then we all quietly and politely filed out with smiles on our faces and, for many of us, tears of joy in our eyes.

Imagine all that and you have my favorite movie of the summer of 2005 – March Of The Penguins.

Wow – what an amazing film!!

Penguins is a documentary shot over a period of almost a year in Antarctica that follows the fascinating saga of emperor penguins as they literally march over 70 miles of unmarked and shifting ice from the sea to their ancestral breeding grounds. Once they reach their destination, they engage in a thoroughly delightful mating ritual (only the G-rated “foreplay” is depicted) and then embark on an absolutely compelling and riveting nine-month adventure of courage, love, devotion, and survival.

To say more would ruin your thrill of discovering all the mind-boggling logistics of how these adorable and extraordinary creatures make it through the Antarctic winter, withstanding temperatures of 60 degrees below zero and windstorms that often reach 100 miles per hour!

Yes, predators do appear from time to time (thankfully, none of the human persuasion.) This is, after all, nature, and Antarctica has its food chain like anywhere else. However, there is nothing from which you have to avert your eyes and the sad moments are filmed and narrated with dignity and impeccable taste.

The film is one of those where you just sit with your mouth open wondering things like “That’s unbelievable!”, “How did they think of this?”, “How did they shoot that?”, “How do penguins survive that?”, and for me, “I think I walk like that, too” and I sure wish we could see MORE movies like this!!!”.

In this dreary film-going summer of 2005, we certainly had more than our fill of typically empty, violent, crude, repetitive, and unimaginative Hollywood films. The unexpected delights of the summer turned out to be two documentaries – Penguins and Mad Hot Ballroom – wherein filmmakers told beautiful touching stories about love and commitment.

I hope you will see Penguins with your kids, friends, parents, grandparents, and significant others. When Penguins was finished, I left feeling something special for the first time in a long time after leaving a film. I felt wonderful about being human, conscious, and alive.

Imagine THAT

Stephen Simon produced such films as Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come and will next be directing and producing the film version of Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God. He also wrote The Force is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives and co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle Stephen welcomes your comments by email:

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