Attempting to contrast the extreme wilderness exploration and trekking techniques of men and women, Greg Stiever’s “Poles Apart” succeeds less as a docu on gender differences and more as a pure account of the 1992 American Women’s Expedition to the South Pole. Though much is made here of the cooperative teamwork approach of expedition leader Ann Bancroft’s four-woman crew (and how three of the four are lesbian) vs. the ultra-macho manner of Brit Ranulph Fiennes’ simultaneous polar walk, pic engages viewer on most basic levels of how human beings manage to survive in what’s arguably Earth’s harshest clime. Good ancillary and fest journey lies ahead, with pic already airing on Oxygen cabler.
Bancroft and mates talk frankly to Stiever’s camera about the ups and downs of effort, ranging from supreme fundraising difficulties (team plowed on sans corporate backing, unheard of in such polar projects) to lots of interpersonal conflicts and crew’s individual physical mishaps. They look benign compared to Fiennes’ and Mike Stroud’s scientific experiment to cross Antarctica without eating, but a portrait of quiet heroism develops even as these adventurers reveal their all-too-human dimensions.