Winged Migration

Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Jacques Perrin

Director: Jacques Perrin

Winging it’s way from France, after four years in the making, is a fascinating and comprehensive documentary about birds. In particular, this film focuses on the migratory journeys that birds must take when the climate of their breeding ground becomes too inhospitable to live (which occurs, usually, in the winter months). So North American and Canadian birds fly South to central and South America, while European birds aim for Africa.

The first half is, sadly, very repetitive, as it consists of little more than footage of different types of birds migrating. Just how many of these shots can one handle? Well, quite a lot actually, since the shots are so astonishing. Indeed, the footage is astonishing when at it’s worst. At it’s best the footage is little short of transcendental.

And so it deserves to be, since this production took 5 crews of more than 450 people filming bird migrations through forty countries and 7 continents. Over 6 types of aircraft were used to capture footage. For a film which probably won’t win a very large audience, no expense has been spared, and it shows. The photography really is amazing, and is accompanied by a charming soundtrack of Gallic airs.

Yet I do have my reservations. Mainly, I found the lacklustre narration disappointing. It is delivered by the director himself – Jacques Perrin – in a thick French accent. This is bad enough, but also his narration is sparse, giving unnecessary statistics at awkward moments, and when the viewer could do with some illuminating detail, the narrator stays silent.

In fact, the whole film is short on interesting details and arresting anecdotes, the lifeblood of any documentary. But having said that there was a gruesomely entertaining section that showed us what happens to the birds that don’t make it to their journey’s end. We see a few unexpectedly shot dead during a bird shoot, and see another with a broken wing, left behind by his flock, only to be devoured alive by dozens of crabs.

Wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers will be in seventh heaven, from start to finish. Everyone else should still find this enthralling to some degree or other. Birds, the only animals to master the skies, will always be a marvel to watch.

5 out of 6 stars