Winged Migration is a remarkable film, in that for 98 minutes, the only thing we see is flying birds. Such a documentary, if not done with exceptional skill and scope could have easily been boring. However it is testament to the film producers that they manage to create an epic documentary that is both visually stunning and informative. The film took 4 years to make and you can understand why, as they seemed to leave no location or continent unvisited. In fact they visited over 40 countries and the production team totaled more than 450 people and 17 pilots.
One of the main attractions of the film is seeing birds fly from the perspective of a bird. Somehow they managed to film the birds from their own flying height. The camera seemed so close, it left the impression on the viewer that he was flying with the birds, rather than just looking at them for a distance. To achieve many of these spectacular shots the film crew said they had to use specially trained birds who had become used to having humans and TV cameras around them. Many of the birds were actually individually reared from birth in the company of humans, (which in itself was no easy task) A purist may say this would make it not a pure documentary, but that would be to unnecessarily nitpick.
Another attraction of the film was seeing the birds in diverse locations, from urban areas such as Paris to the majestic mountains of the Himalayas. The film effortlessly moves from location to another creating an impression of travel and never lingers too long on a particular scene. There are many scenes that really stand out. In particular there is one scene of Geese calmly sitting through a blizzard in Nepal, however at the onset of an avalanche they suddenly depart en masse.
There is a distinct lack of humans, even when some birds land on a aircraft carrier, humans are not visible. It seems the film wanted to give the impression that it is possible to view the world from a perspective, very different to the ordinary human perspective. By and large this was successfully achieved. The narration to the film added little. It was good that they had the wisdom to allow moments of silence rather than filling it up with superfluous information. At times it become a meditation on nature and is well worth seeing even if you don’t share a passion for birds.
Richard is an economics teacher in Oxford and is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre. He edits a blog .
Short video clip of winged migration