CAN YOU IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT BIRDSONG? A critically acclaimed documentary film, directed by Su Rynard
Sunday, May 28
1 – 2:30 pm
Where: Festival Headquarters, CCLC in Trescott
Watching “The Messenger” — the visuals alone are soothing, at least as long as the birds are flying to the sound of soaring violins — we cling to the beauty and the emotional resonance of birdsong. But we know what’s coming: the tiny cold bodies, their claws curled, littering the sidewalk after smashing into glass; the migrating flocks disoriented by light pollution; the fallen victims of zealous oil drilling in the Boreal Forest.
Shot with a propagandist’s eye for the inflammatory image, the film manipulates us, stoking our instinct to root for the good guys. Vintage news footage depicts Mao Zedong’s 1957 attempt to save China’s grain crops from sparrows by mobilizing the citizenry to eradicate the birds (Boo!), an effort that backfired, contributing to a famine that killed millions.
Young, earnest and, I daresay, charming Frenchmen (yay!) creep through cornfields to photograph evidence of illegal bird-trapping. A local gent, missing a few teeth, threatens the bird lovers with an implement resembling a giant fireplace poker. He rhapsodizes about plump ortolan buntings drizzled with Armagnac and grilled until the bones dissolve. A close-up follows of a diner tearing into a cooked bird, grasping its little head like a handle. (Eew!)
We can’t really expect the director, Su Rynard, to give equal time to bird haters (assuming one or two exist), although the film shows markedly less respect for other creatures. Cats, for one, are branded as invasive and likened to kudzu, but the film wisely stops short of recommending wiping out the species.
Over all, the arguments are persuasive, the message from the birds powerful, and the film a rich and satisfying call to action that is presented with some novel ideas for how to restore the ecological balance.