Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crimson WIng:The Mystery of the Flamingos (2008)

This doesn't appear to have a US release despite it being a Disneynature film. Its played around the world and is out in DVD elsewhere, but in the US its played in some film festivals and this past weekend and next weekend its playing at the IFC Center in New York City.

The film concerns the flamingos return to Lake Natron in Tanzania where they breed each year. The lake is full of salt and except on the fringes it supports no life. However once the rainy season comes the flamingos returns and breed on islands of salt (think ice slaps but of salt). The film follows as the birds breed, lay eggs and try to keep their young safe before they match off to the fringes of the lake waiting for the young's feathers to mature enough so they can fly.

Its a visually arresting film that was a joy to see on the big screen. There are shots that will take your breath away. An early shot of a large flock of birds fling in formation had me awestruck, and then tearing up as the flock was halved when we realized that half the flock was the birds reflections and they were coming in for a landing. There are so many shot like this you may want to tie your mouth closed.

The problem with the film, and the one that keeps me from saying run out and see this on the big screen if it plays by you (though doesn't affect my whole hearted recommendation for DVD) is that the film is too long by say fifteen minutes. Once the birds leave the salt and head out into the marshes on the fringes of the lake, the film has nothing much to say. The narration repeats and we simply wait for the birds to mature enough to fly off so they can return the next year. While the film remains visually inspiring (the erupting volcano and shots of the birds flying in a lightning storm will blow you away), the film just runs out of steam.

I heartily recommend the film for those who love nature documentaries, but at the same time, you may want to wait for the DVD.

A word of warning: the film does not shy away from the death of the birds. We see the cycle of life so we so see the carnage brought by predators. We also see the chicks become encased in salt shackles which form on their legs and feathers making their mobility limited if not not existent. Its heart breaking and incredibly sad to the point a couple of kids who were in the audience when I saw it yesterday needed to be reassured by their parents. If the film doesn't get a big push by Disney I'm guessing its the true life scenes of death.

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