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The Messenger’ Documents Threats To Songbird Population

What are birds trying to tell us?

"The Messenger" Trailer

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando review "The Messenger."


Companion Viewing

"The Birds" (1963)

"Winged Migration" (2001)

"March of the Penguins" (2005)

The documentary "The Messenger" (opening April 22 at the Digital Gym Cinema) states that once we believed birds were messengers between humans and the supernatural or divine — and birds still have something to tell us.

Su Rynard’s documentary "The Messenger" suggests that birds today may be harbingers whose growing silence warns that something’s going seriously wrong.

The film tells us: "We think that songbirds are really like the canary in the coal mine. They are telling us something that’s wrong. There’s something happening to life on the planet that’s not good and we need to find out what that is and how we can change it."

Rynard’s film is gorgeously shot with some breathtaking slow motion of birds in flight against a black backdrop. It reminded me of the footage of birds in flight from "Winged Migration." These images provide a stark contrast to shots of piles of dead songbirds collected to to demonstrate how many are dying on a daily basis from a variety of causes.

The film serves up a contemplative investigation into the troubling depletion of songbirds worldwide and the people trying to figure out why it’s happening and what it means. At times the thoughtful tone seems to run contrary to the sense of urgency Rynard is trying to create about the dangers facing these beautiful little creatures. But in the end, the documentary makes a point about how we should heed the warnings of these messengers.

Check out my behind the scenes at theNat video and discover how museum collections of pelican eggs helped to reveal the detrimental impact of DDT.

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