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:: Travelling Birds

Travelling Birds is a visually spectacular three-year filming odyssey that takes us all over the world. The film follows the spring migration of numerous Northern Hemisphere species of birds on their journey north to the Arctic Circle. Each species of bird is introduced by a sub-title telling us how far it flies in its migratory pattern, where it originates from and where it's heading. Director/Producer Jacques Perrin (Microcosmos 1996, and Himalaya 1999) and his vast production team have used an ingenious array of filming techniques to turn the rituals of a bird’s life into a breathtaking spectacle, creating a bird’s eye view of the world.

The recurring and transcendent thrill of this documentary is that the audience is right up in the sky along side the birds in flight, via the spectacular airborne technology used by the film makers involving cameras mounted on gliders, balloons and helicopters, both manned and remote-controlled. (The opening credits alert us to the fact that no special effects or computer-generated images have been used). It is because of this technology that we can soar with an American eagle above the Grand Canyon, or take up position at the tail of a determined squadron of Canadian geese. Whilst the type of bird varies (Geese, cranes, swans, terns), the aerial shots are consistently spectacular. With footage from seven continents, Perrin shows a wide variety of landscapes and environmental conditions as seen from a bird’s point of view. We see them above an avalanche thundering down a mountain pass, among a herd of wild horses galloping across the American Prairie, over the sculpted dunes of the African desert, into a driving snowstorm, or flying past the Eiffel Tower along the Seine. Adding to the sense of intimacy is the clever use of sound. We hear the birds communicate with each other in flight, and the flapping of wings recorded via tiny microphones attached to their bodies.

There is plenty of drama, elation, comedy and tragedy in this documentary: the jarring sight and sound of several geese being brought down by a hunter's bullet, a goose with its leg caught in a fishing net is eventually released, a group of suspicious and puzzled birds approach what turns out to be a decoy bird in a waterway, and the useless and pathetic struggle of a crane trapped in an oil slick. But the grand finale has to be the saddening sight of a fallen seabird with a broken wing, desperately trying to evade the clutches of a cast of predatory and fast moving crabs. It doesn't get pretty when the bird loses its will. That said, this is a visually spectacular documentary that concentrates on the incredible journeys made by the birds and only hints at the other trials and tribulations they face.