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Winged Migration

Latest Home Video

Apr 10, 2009

MPAA Rating:

G


Run Time:

88

Studio

2001 Sony Pictures

Still shot from the movie: Winged Migration.

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OverallA
ViolenceA-
SexA
LanguageA
Drugs/AlcoholA
Run Time88

Making the Grades

I hesitate to use the words "wildlife documentary" in describing this movie, because I fear far too many readers will assume they've seen far too many films about animals.

Let me assure you… you've never seen a film like this. And I'd guess even the most jaded, desensitized young viewer raised on a diet of action heroes and gunshots would become reluctantly engaged in what is likely to become a classic documentary film.

Winged Migration is the result of over four years of effort by Jacques Perrin, a French documentarian who has gone to arduous efforts to allow us to see birds from their point of view. Using a variety of manned and robotic aircraft, helicopters and balloons, Perrin brings us into the world of birds to the extent that the occasional brief image of man or his modifications of Earth appear foreign and obtrusive.

p> The film follows the flights of various migrating birds around the globe. Some fly a few hundred miles each year, while others fly thousands. The definitive "air points" king is the Arctic Tern, which transverses the globe with its annual Arctic to Antarctic flight.

But what is amazing is Perrin hasn't chosen birds at random. Instead, we see the same flock in various locations. For instance, one bird is caught in a discarded net, but released by a kind child. Hundreds of miles later, we see the same bird, still carrying a small piece of netting on its foot. At the close of the film (shot a year later), the bird still totes the mark of man.

In the film business, we call this continuity 0x2013 something huge Hollywood studios often mess up. (Ever notice when an actress is suddenly holding a coffee cup in her other hand after an edit?) The inclusion of this visual evidence propels the story flow even more than the scant narration, and suggests (or confirms) Perrin and his crew literally climbed mountains, crossed oceans, and trekked across deserts to give us the true picture.

The groundbreaking cinematography is sharp, detailed, and crisp 0x2013 again amazing considering the difficulties in getting a camera this close to wildlife. And it is very close. Watching these birds fly thousands of miles, we can view their muscles, hear the flap of the wings, and practically feel the beating of their hearts.

Using pictures rather than words, Perrin creates a visual environmental statement as we see birds navigating through industrial sites 0x2013 once with sad consequences. Two other short scenes have our winged protagonists shot from the sky by anonymous hunters. A couple of other moments feature natural predators extracting their assets from the food chain. Yet Perrin has kept explicit carnage off the screen, wisely choosing to only show what we need to know, and keeping his film suitable for any age of viewer.

Painted with the subtle brush of a beautiful musical score, this film is a tremendous gift to a world needing a peaceful reminder of whom we share this planet with.

Discussion Ideas After The Movie

Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Winged Migration.

Perrin says he hasn’t utilized any special effects in making his documentary. How might a documentary director be tempted to use technology as a substitute for filming 0x201Cthe real thing?0x201D Do you think modifying the picture or sound to create a more vivid or moving experience would be ethical in the documentary genre?

Some documentaries use a nearly continual voice-over narrator that essentially tells you what you should be thinking as you watch the pictures. Perrin instead uses the images to tell most of his story. Which do you think is more effective?

One thing the documentary doesn’t address is what has happened to these imprinted birds now that the project is over. Do you think they could be released into the wild after being with humans for so long? Is it right for us to meddle with nature this way?

To learn more about the filming of Winged Migration, along with many facts about birds, check out www.sonyclassics.com/wingedmigration.

Canadian Movie Ratings

BC
SK
G
AB G
MB Not Rated
ON G
QC Not Rated
NB
NS
NL
PE
Not Rated

Canadian Home Video Rating: G

Watch @ Home

Details on home video releases of Winged Migration...

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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