The Microcosmos team return with Winged Migration, a stunning film that follows the migration of birds. The content is interesting, and extremely well shot.
From the filmmakers
“For eighty million years, birds have ruled the skies, seas and earth. Each spring, they fly vast distances. Each Fall, they fly the same route back. This film is the result of four years following their amazing odysseys, in the northern hemisphere and then the south, species by species, flying over seas and continents." — Jacques Perrin (from “Winged Migration”) Long one of France's most respected producers (Academy Award Winners “Z” and “Black and White in Color”) and actors (“Z,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” “Donkey Skin” and “The Brotherhood of the Wolf”), Jacques Perrin has more recently had a highly successful career creating films about nature, including “Le Peuple Singe” (monkeys) and “Microcosmos” (insects) and set in exotic locales (“Himalaya”). Now with his penultimate film "Winged Migration" Perrin takes on his greatest challenge yet: exploring the mystery of birds in flight. Five teams of people (more than 450 people, including 17 pilots and 14 cinematographers) were necessary to follow a variety of bird migrations through forty countries and each of the seven continents. The film covers landscapes that range from the Eiffel Tower and Monument Valley to the remote reaches of the Arctic and the Amazon. All manner of man-made machines were employed, including planes, gliders, helicopters, and balloons, and numerous innovative techniques and ingeniously designed cameras were utilized to allow the filmmakers to fly alongside, above, below and in front of their subjects. The result is a film of staggering beauty that opens one's eyes to the ineffable wonders of the natural world.
Earthbound, watching the birds fly across the sky, we undertook this film. We had to go higher, nearer the birds, within striking distance of the stars. How could we manage it? Man has dreamt of birds since the beginning of time. How to imagine being among the first to transform this dream into reality? I will always treasure the memory of the first time we achieved this. The cameraman was following the movements of the geese, with one hand the assistant pushed away those who came too near the camera: the whole spool of film ran out. Radiant, tears in their eyes, they looked at me, speechless, motionless. Their mastery and the technical result were of minor importance, they had been in the confidence of the birds in flight. What if, for the space of a year, we no longer waited for the seasons, what if we embarked on the most fabulous of journeys, what if, abandoning our towns and our countryside, we went on a tour of the planet? What if we understood that our borders did not exist, that the earth is a one and only space and what if we learned to be free as birds? —Jacques Perrin
About the Birds
“Winged Migration” is a film dedicated to birds and their displacements according to the seasons. For every one of us, these winged creatures are among the most fascinating, the most shrouded in mystery and poetry. Among all the vertebrates, they are the only ones to have mastered the open sky. Through a series of miracles of evolution, they have conquered all the skies by equipping themselves with remarkably adapted organs, wings covered with feathers, powerful muscles to move them, the heart of a long distance runner. They combine a minimum of weight with maximum strength and ease. They make up one of the most extraordinary successes of evolution, after having come from a reptilian ancestor crawling on the ground. Their flight gives them an accurate place in the biosphere; no other animal has ever come to contest this. Their exceptional faculties have allowed them to answer annual fluctuations in the climates by finding refuge during the winter far from their homelands where they breed. They are the undeniable champions among all the long distance migrants. The life of many of them is spent in long peregrinations between the place where they nest and the one where they live during the winter. Many change continents. Some fly around the earth in untiring turns. And this in spite of the risks which await them. In order to better face them, even the most solitary gather together in gigantic groups, one of the great shows of nature. To perform these exploits, as in anticipation of the efforts awaiting them, the birds accumulate reserves of fats before their departure. To guide themselves, they have discovered astronomical bearings, observing the sun and the stars. They perceive the magnetic field of the earth as the needle of a compass. They have an internal clock which gives them the time and the season of the year. The hereditary innate and a part of apprenticeship with their elders, informs them on the term of their voyages and the skyways to reach them. They know how to cope with weather conditions in an uninterrupted dialogue with the wind. “Winged Migration” relates the saga of these myriad of birds all along their migration routes. —Professor Jean Dorst, French Academy of Sciences
For earthbound humans, Winged Migration is as close as any of us will get to sharing the sky with our fine feathered friends. It's as if French director Jacques Perrin and his international crew of dedicated filmmakers had been given a full-access pass by Mother Nature herself, with the complete "cooperation" of countless species of migrating birds, all answering to eons of migratory instinct. The film is utterly simple in purpose, with minimal narration and on-screen titles to identify the wondrous varieties of flying wildlife, but its visceral effect is humbling, awesome and magnificently profound. Technically, Perrin surpasses the achievement of his earlier film Microcosmos (which did for insects what this film does for birds), and apart from a few digital skyscapes for poetic effect, this astonishing film uses no special effects whatsoever, with soaring, seemingly miraculous camera work that blesses the viewer with, quite literally, a bird's-eye view. A brief but important hunting scene may upset sensitive viewers and children, but doesn't stop Winged Migration from being essential all-ages viewing. --Jeff Shannon
The 52-minute making-of documentary on Winged Migration recounts the dangers both birds and crew faced during shooting, and reveals that the crew was able to get close to the birds by using "imprinting" to make them think the crew were their parents. Once you get used to producer-director Jacques Perrin's French accent on the commentary track, you'll hear how he was afraid he'd have to remove the scene in which the World Trade Center is visible, how he doesn't consider the film a documentary as much as "a homage to these beautiful birds," and how there was a happy ending to the film's most disturbing scene. Because the DVD's sound and picture are excellent, the film can serve as a Baraka-like ambient experience if desired. --David Horiuchi
This awe-inspiring, critically acclaimed documentary of migrating birds through 40 countries and every continent was captured using planes, gliders, helicopters and balloons, allowing the filmmakers a spectacularly intimate look at their subjects. From Academy Award-nominated Director Jacques Perrin (Z, Black and White in Color). 2002 Academy Award® Nominee for Best Documentary.