March of the Penguins

Last updated by Darren on 03 July 2009

March of the Penguins is a documentary film showing the yearly migration of the Emperor Penguin. March of the Penguins, (aka La Marche de l'empereur), was created by Luc Jacquet.  March of the Penguins is a National Geographic film.

March of the Penguins is an astonishing film. Filmed under incredibly harsh conditions by French director Luc Jacquet and his team. Cinematographers included Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison. Marc of the Penguins was filmed on driest, coldest and darkest continent on Earth, surrounded by ice, snow and penguins. It took one year to shoot the film, around the French scientific base Dumont d'Urville in Adélie Land.

March of the Penguins is narrated by Morgan Freeman and depicts the yearly journey of the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica. Penguins five years old leave the ocean to walk inland to their ancestral breeding grounds. The penguins then participate in a courtship that will result in the creation of new life. Both parents must make multiple journeys between the ocean and the breeding grounds over the ensuing months to ensure the chick will survive.

The story

The penguins start their migration, once they have spent the summer feasting. Thousands of penguins walk in single file in a column over one mile long. Each penguins knows where it is going, even the penguins who are making the journey for the first time. Instinct is a powerful thing.

The penguins choose their mates.The process of parenting is not an easy one. Once the female delivers the large egg, the male gathers it into his abdomen. He then plants his feet to protect the egg from the ice below where he then stands there for two months. In howling gales, at temperatures far below zero, with no food or water, in total darkness, huddled together with the other fathers for warmth the male protects the precious egg. Meanwhile the females make the long journey back to the sea. The sea is even more distant, with the freezing environment. Once at the sea the females forage for food. Once the food is collected the females return to the males. They find their partners, amongst the sea of penguins, without error, and instantly recognize the cry of their chick, which they have never heard or seen before.

Once the chick has hatched the male can eat a tiny meal. If the female does not return in time the male must put its own survival first and abandon the chick. When the female penguin returns the male will have lost half of its body weight, having not eaten for four months.

The chicks are then cared for, for a further four months. The parents will shuttle back and forth to the sea collecting food. Spring brings melting ice, which makes the journey easier, with the retreating sea edge. Eventually the parents will leave the chick to fend for itself.


March of the Penguins is a beautiful film to watch. The images are expertly captured, especially considered the conditions. March of the penguins is a fascinating film for adults and children alike. Every viewer will learn a good deal form the film.


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  • Directed by Luc Jacquet
  • Written by Luc Jacquet, Michel Fessler
  • Starring Morgan Freeman (narrator, US version), Charles Berling (narrator), Romane Bohringer (narrator), Jules Sitruk (narrator), Emperor Penguins
  • Produced by Ilann Girard, Yves Darondeau, Christophe Lioud, Emmanuel Priou
  • Distributed by Warner Independent Pictures

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