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Still shot from the movie: Winged Migration.

Winged Migration

Incredible cinematography captures the world of birds and their migratory patterns around the globe. Get the movie review and more. »


Overall: A
Violence: A-
Sexual Content: A
Language: A
Drugs/Alcohol: A
Run Time: 88
Theater Release:
Video Release: 10 Apr 2009
MPAA Rating: G
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How We Determine Our Grades

The movie Fly Away Home offers a fictional story about the factual migration of Canada Geese.

Home Video Extra Features

How did he do it?

The photography in Winged Migration is so incredible that I have been anxiously awaiting the DVD release hoping it might include a making-of documentary. Sure enough it does0x2014and this amazing featurette may even upstage the main event.

When Jacques Perrin set out to make this film, he wanted to be free to move with the birds0x2014to go where they go, to see what they see. In order to achieve his goal he had to create, design or customize all sorts of vehicles and equipment like airplanes, hot-air-balloons, boats, cranes and towers. The documentary allows us to be privy to these ingenious techniques.

But the biggest mystery of all is how he managed to get so close to these feathered friends that we feel like we are flying in formation with them. And how did he follow the same flock all over the globe?

The featurette explains the answers to such questions as these lay in Perrin’s simple statement that he set out to make a movie, not a documentary. As such, many of the birds in this film are more like the cast in a play, rather than subjects in a study, and the sequences portrayed are scripted rather than captured by an observant photographer.

In order to have a group of compliant creatures, the French filmmaker began with a bird hatchery. When his future starlets were born, he applied all that is known about imprinting wild animals by having the hatchlings bond with special trainers. Next the gaggle of students was conditioned to the presence of additional crewmembers, the sound of engine noise, and the company of various vehicles and aircrafts. When they were ready to take flight, the cameras were right there beside them, ready to roll too.

The next challenge was to film them 0x201Con location.0x201D Both birds and crew took airplanes to their foreign destinations. Once the winged actors and equipment were uncrated, the shooting began. This laborious process took four years, with the efforts of about 500 people who made over 300 trips across every continent on the planet. As you watch the crew work, it becomes obvious that the birds have imprinted themselves on the humans, as much as the other way around.

The DVD also provides interviews with the masterminds behind the beautiful musical score. (This featurette is in French, but you can read the English subtitles by turning on your Closed Captioning option.) One of the interesting audio choices they made was to add a soundtrack of breathing and panting. This element really increases the viewer’s appreciation for the physical exertion of flight.

What you see in the final product is a fictionalized dramatization of factual migration patterns—sort of like a script based on a true story. In between the constructed storylines there are lots of traditional documentary images gathered by faithful birdwatchers. Although Perrin’s approach could be seen as manipulative, its uniqueness makes it almost a scientific experiment in itself.

Home Video Notes: Winged Migration: Blu-ray

Release Date: Blu-ray 4 April 2009

Winged Migration flies onto Blu-ray with a flock of bonus extras. These include a director’s commentary, a making -of featurette, a Creating the Music featurette, a photo gallery with a filmmaker commentary and in-depth interviews with the filmmaker.


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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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