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  • This documentary introduces the viewer of "Winged Migration" to the people behind what its makers call "the tale," a combination of fiction and truth. The movie was storyboarded and the actors (birds) hand raised from eggs to imprint on the filmmakers and their machines (boats, a French naval ship, paragliders, balloons, ultralights, motorcycles, trucks, etc.). At first, after imprinting on the people, the birds were trained to follow, run, and then fly beside the ultralights and other vehicles as they motored along the ground. Then they flew with the ultralights and gliders. Finally, they were transported to various places along migratory paths by plane--cranes, swans, ducks, geese, pelicans, and so on--to fly or waddle or wade on scene and on cue ("Allez, allez!"). The filmmakers also flew without their birds to spots where the birds they did not or could not tame arrived or nested or left at certain times of the year. Filming was held up for hours, days, or months when the birds were sick, the weather did not cooperate, the birds flew away and eluded their handlers, or the ultralights crashed (9 times during the filming of "Winged Migration"). Fortunately, no humans were seriously harmed during the making of either film (although some clearly suffered bird bites).



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • This is a remarkable documentary of the making of an extraordinary film, perhaps the only film in which the actors following a storyboard are birds of various species, hand-raised by those same humans. While it was already clear from watching the film examined by this documentary that there had to be an explanation for the fact that the viewer appeared to be flying alongside birds who did not mind the presence of the cameras, the facts about how this was done are startling and endearing. Wild birds do appear in the film, and the lengths to which the filmmakers went to capture the moments in migration sequences are almost as boggling as are the lengths to which they went to bond with and nurture the animals they raised. The documentary jumps from desert to snow and back as the schedule required the crew--which reached 500 before the four years of filming were finished--to fly with or without their tame birds to every continent on the planet. Since the humans who wrangled the animals do not appear in the film, this is the only place you will see them hugging their pelicans.

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