Penguin ardour: Lighthearted Netflix docuseries explores quirky South African species


A scene from the eight-part sequence “Penguin City,” which is streaming on Netflix. (Courtesy of Netflix )

Think about narrator Patton Oswalt in his acquainted, comfort-food, expressive voice welcoming us to Netflix’s eight-part docuseries “Penguin City”:

“There are a LOT of films about penguins. Penguins on ice, penguins within the snow, tons of marching. Then … there’s these birds. They boldly go the place no penguins have gone earlier than. Meet the endangered African penguins.”

That’s proper: African penguins. With little pink patches round their eyes, smallish physiques in contrast with among the extra strong members of their species and a particular braying that seems like that of a perturbed jackass, a colony of African penguins returns annually to Simon’s City, South Africa, as longtime monogamous {couples} search to breed as soon as once more, whereas the youthful birds search their lifetime companions – all whereas waddling among the many people on the seashore, within the parking tons and close by neighborhoods.

Patton Oswalt narrates the eight-part Netflix docuseries “Penguin City.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

“Penguin City” is a featherweight documentary about this wonderful species, with Oswalt offering mild and humorous narration, some penguin {couples} getting names, bouncy pop music and graphics straight out of a actuality relationship present: “Six sizzling months! One wild colony! No guidelines!” It’s stuffed with info, however they’re at all times draped within the conceit of the penguins just about taking up the city, whereas the “giants,” aka people, are seen largely from the PPOV (Penguins’ Level of View) after which disappear from the sequence when the pandemic hits and Simon’s City sadly turns into a ghost city.

As superior as these penguins are, the adults all look just about the identical, so we’ve got to depend on the filmmakers (and narrator Oswalt) to remind us which story we’re following from scene to scene. Despite the fact that assigning names to penguin {couples} is terribly cutesy, it’s really a useful gadget as we meet the Bougainvilleas, who’ve been collectively for years and zone in instantly on their common spot below a big bush providing consolation and safety; the Courtyards, a pair who arrange camp in a backyard on a complicated property; and the Culverts, who’re new at this and discover the battle is actual to discover a protected spot for his or her eggs to hatch, particularly with the weather, some unfriendly members of their very own colony and the native wildlife presenting threats. (Wild animals, together with the lynxlike caracal, have been emboldened by the dearth of people in Simon’s City, and we observe one such wildcat as she stalks her penguin prey.)

For all its sweetness and upbeat nature, “Penguin City” doesn’t ignore the realities of life for this endangered species. A junior penguin suffers life-threatening bites from a fur seal. One of many featured penguins by no means returns to its house nest. This sequence is about so far as you will get from a kind of documentaries the place we see nature’s violence in all its essential brutality, however amid all the enjoyment and sweetness, we see and listen to reminders that the lifetime of the African penguin is commonly harsh, and largely it’s as much as this small however hearty and steadfast band of vacationers to maintain the species going. How are you going to not root for them to have a profitable and (re)productive keep in Penguin City?


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