Documentary Site started as an outlet for my interests in documentary 15 years ago. Since then, my presence has expanded to writing, managing Twitter fans, and connecting with makers, promoters, and fans of documentary. Probably three of the coolest things to come from this endeavor are being invited to write for POV, visiting Kartemquin studios, and leading a discussion after a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali. My current project involves watching and writing about 365 documentaries in 2014. Feel free to send along your suggestions via Twitter @documentarysite!

#365Docs: Winged Migration (42/365)

by |

I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to hmcintosh@documentarysite.com. Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

While flipping through Netflix’s documentary offerings, I came across Winged Migration, which was directed by Jacques Perrin and released in 2001.

The cinematography in this documentary is stunning. Filmed over the course of four years, the cameras followed birds of many kinds and most continents through their seasonal journeys.

The documentary balances natural beauty and man-made places. The saturation of colors makes the fields the birds fly over seem surreal. Monument Valley is set against ribbons of colored sky. The filmmakers even catch a glacier calving.

Other familiar world monuments dot the landscape: the Great Wall, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty. A sadder shot shows the Twin Towers against the New York City skyline.

The documentary carefully balances the capturing of flocks of birds and the individual birds. They fly in enormous groups, but occasionally one bird gets caught or left behind. These individual stories show the impacts of people on these birds’ journeys. One caught in a net is freed. Another caught in factory pollution isn’t so lucky.

Other threats come from tractors and hunters. One shot shows a baby bird occupying a nest on the ground with a tractor coming for it. The next shot moves onto another sequence. Part of me wonders if the filmmakers saved the little bird from being run over or if they remained noninterventionist in their filming. (I hope for the former.)

Titles throughout the documentary introduce the different kinds of birds and detail their journeys in the different seasons. Sometimes, more specific locations would have helped. “Far East” seems too general a phrase to me for pinpointing on a map.

Overall, Winged Migration is a visually beautiful nature documentary whose spectacle requires little other intervention in telling its story.

Get more documentary film news and features: Subscribe to POV’s documentary blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs!

Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.