WINGED MIGRATION (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 30, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“Breathtaking visuals, beautiful music…just magnificent to watch! If you thought the visual and audio experience from ‘Winged Migration’ was magnificent on DVD, definitely watch this movie in high definition! You will be in awe!”
TITLE: Winged Migration (aka Le Peuple Migrateur)
DURATION: 89 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Language(s): English 5.1, Spanish (Latin Am) 5.1, Portuguese (Brazil) 5.1, Subtitles(s): Danish, English (UK), English (US), Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Latin Am), Swedish, Aspect Ratio: 1.85
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2009
Directed by Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud (co-director) and Michel Debats (co-director)
Written by Jean Dorst, Stephane Durand, Guy Jarry, Jacques Perrin, Valentine Perrin, Francis Roux
Produced by Christophe Barratier
Original Music by Bruno Coulais
Cinematography by Olli Barbe, Michel Benjamin, Sylvie Caredo-Dreujou, Laurent Charbonnier, Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot, Philippe Garguil, Dominique Gentil, Bernard Lutic,Thierry Machado, Stéphane Martin, Fabrice Moindrot, Ernst Sasse, Michel Terrasse, Thierry Thomas
Film Editing by Marie-Josephe Yoyotte
Production Design by Regis Nicolino
Breathtaking! Beautiful! There are so many positive things that one can say about “Winged Migration”, the popular 2001 documentary film/natural tale that captured the attention of audiences around the world with its ambitious plan to showcase a birds migration during the Winter and its return back. Ambitious because it would involve a large crew and a global filmmaking effort plus cinematography never before seen at that time.
With a crew of 450 people, 17 pilots and 14 cinematographers, an ambitious documentary directed by three individuals Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debas and Jacques Perrin with their goal to show people about birds who migrate and travel the globe.
Many people know that birds migrate once the Winter comes but where do they go? What do they do? This natural tale, which the directors prefer to use than calling it a “documentary” is all about watching dozens upon dozens of different birds from all seven continents and what they do. Quite literally, the cycle of life amongst the birds and captured on film.
What is most amazing about “Winged Migration” is that you are right there. It’s like having a front row seat as you are very close to the actual birds flying nearby. From India to New York, to Africa and then to the rain forests of South America Peru, to Japan, Vietnam, Australia, the arctic North and South Pole, over 40 countries and filming in all seven countries during the Summer and the immense cold, this was among the most ambitious films that I have ever seen.
What is most striking about the film is its beautiful cinematography. As mentioned, birds are close by, so close that you feel you can touch them. And then seeing the camera focusing on the flock of birds as it flies right by the rainforests, the desert, the arctic, the ocean with castles and old architecture right below them. There are also awesome shots overhead. Showing the scope of the landscape or how many birds have flocked to an area. It’s just amazing cinematography.
The film uses nearly 590 miles of film to create an 89 minute documentary. For example, in the scene in the arctic, one reel of film is 4-minutes long. With film being so expensive, the filmmakers had challenges of wondering when to make good use of the film while sitting in the frigid arctic for hours filming. When do you shoot? Do they wait for something to happen? Definitely a risky and difficult filming task but they pulled it off.
“Winged Migration” is a film that does its best to showcase the life of these birds as they migrate thousands of miles and then return back to where they come from. Some going from Africa to Europe, others from the North Pole all the way to the South Pole. The fact that the filmmakers covered so many birds and followed them so far around the planet. A feat so ambitious, so difficult, so challenging and so risky but something not done before in the sake of filmmaking, what we are able to get is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking films ever created.
The goal of the filmmaker was to create a film that would be a symphony of nature. So, while you watch the film which is occasionally narrated and features occasional subtitles when introducing a bird or region and how far it has traveled, it’s all about what you see on video, the beauty of them flying and traveling thousands of miles around the planet. And then in conjunction with the beautiful visuals comes the beautiful music of Bruno Coulais and the Bulgarian choir. Again, everything comes together perfectly!
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Winged Migration” is featured for the first time in High-Definition ala 1080p with an aspect ration of 1:85:1. All shots are outdoors, different types of weather depending on the continent. Near the desert, near the snow, near lush green backdrops of grass and trees and the ocean. The different types of birds and their own different colors. “Winged Migration” is all about its vibrant colors. And the beautiful cinematography showcases that vibrancy and sure, it was beautiful on DVD but on high definition, a film like “Winged Migration” is just breathtaking and knowing that this film is not utilizing CG in the filming of the birds, that the beauty we see on screen.
As for the audio, audio is presented in English, Portuguese and Spanish in Dolby True HD 5.1. There is occasional narrative but the film is all about its music. And the symphony-based music by Bruno Coulais and the vocal groups from Bulgaria and the music overall was just fantastic to listen to. There are scenes where you will hear the birds singing and chirping and that what you hear all around your entire home theater surround. Music and ambient sound of the birds play a big part in this film.
As for subtitles, “Winged Migration”is subtitled in Danish, English (UK), English (US), Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Latin Am) and Swedish.
The special features of “Winged Migration” is probably one of the most important to watch because you get to learn if the crew saved any of the birds that were in harms way or just shot as nature intended it to be:
- Full Length Director’s Commentary – Despite the thick French accent, the commentary track is very important to listen to because you get good insight of the filmmaking process. Of what was actually shot live and what was created to make a point. For example, there is a scene with the birds flying through industries and showcase a storyline about pollution. The scene shows birds walking through, what looks like oil and one getting trapped in it. All birds escape but one. One is stuck. It makes you wonder, did the bird die in the oil or did the crew save it? You realize through the commentary that the oil is not oil but black milk, so the bird was not harmed. The scene was shot as it is to make a point about pollution. So, there are many commentary segments that are just informative. You also learn more through the various featurettes on disc.
- “Making of Winged Migration”– A 52-minute featurette on the making of the film. You realize that a good number of the birds have been imprinted. Meaning, when they were born, the first thing they saw was a human and thus, they were attached to the humans and taught how to migrate. Similar to the 1996 film “Fly away Home”, “Winged Migration” showcases various birds that were imprinted and thus, how various filming through the ground, oceans and sky were done. You learn of the challenges of filming in New York and Paris but also all over the world and the risky challenges faced by the crew. The film was shot in 48 countries, all seven continents and the challenges include shipping cranes to Senegal to film a scene but weather wasn’t cooperating and the birds got sick. So, the film crew had to face certain situations such as making sure the birds were taken care of. With so many film crews, it was very important that filming was done right. You learn how difficult, risky and challenging it was to do this film but so many people around the world took part in working on “Winged Migration” to make the film possible and to make it happen.
- “Creating the Music” Featurette – With the film focusing so much on the music, a 17-minute featurette was made to showcase the music of Bruno Coulais and the use of a Bulgarian orchestra that Jacques Perrin recommended and then having Nick Cave sing the ending theme.
- About the Film – This nine minute featurette is about “imprinting”. How many of these birds are raised and trained to obey their imprinter, the sounds of a vehicle, human or horn and for their migration.
- Further comments – This 14 minute featurette is possibly the most informative piece for those who were wondering about certain segments. In one scene in Africa, a bird with a broken wing is shown walking. While all these crabs pursue it. You are then left with a shot with the crabs all on top of what appears to possibly be the bird that was injured. But it is revealed that the crew stepped in and actually saved the bird. One of the few scenes where the film crew decided to save a bird instead of filming the actual and natural killing of the birds. Another scene was of the cuckoo and how the bird was eliminating all eggs from a nest and wanting to be the sole bird to be raised by another bird (part of its instinct). The bird would then grow older, migrate to a country like France, find a mate and then the eggs would then be brought to a nest of the bird that raised it. Also, explanation of the filming of the Rockhopper penguins and how a certain bird would go and kill and eat the sick penguin babies or the babies that lost its parents. Very informative segment.
- Photo Gallery with Filmmaker Commentary – A 13-minute featurette showcasing photos of birds in flight and the various types of birds featured on the film.
The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled.
“Winged Migration” was a rare film to come out in 2001. The enormity of following birds as it traveled the globe and having film crews document them migrating in all continents and 48 countries is just amazing. And watching it on film and seeing the behind-the-scenes makes you appreciate the film much more because what was an ambitious idea became reality.
Of course, since “Winged Migration”, there has been films such as “Planet Earth” documenting animals on all seven continents but “Winged Migration” is the documentary to watch about the migration of birds and the awesome cinematography and music are both breathtaking and literally, you will be in awe of how far they went to shoot these birds in a variety of climate.
I was amazed of how close these birds were to the camera while they shot using ultralights, paragliders, hot air balloons, trucks, motorcycles, motorboats, warships and even a robot created by scratch to film the way they wanted the film to be.
The director doesn’t call this film a documentary but a natural tale. Some critics refuse to call this a documentary because of the imprinting of the birds (and the birds are trained to migrate) and that some birds were even flown by plane from one country to another. And as mentioned, the scene about pollution was staged with black milk but come on, what did one expect to see the film crew do, make a manmade oil spill for the sake of filming and see how a bird will suffer? The point of the film was to show birds migrating, which it did but also to point out the certain dangers to the birds in today’s modern society. From hunting, poaching and pollution. Granted, the hunting scene was real and it’s surprising to see these birds migrate and for the film to show each bird getting shot and going down. But that is part of nature to survive and the scenes that the film crew had to make a point with, such as the oil slick using black milk, the point was made loud and clear.
Personally, I found “Winged Migration” just one beautiful film and to hear the music plus the natural sounds of the birds chirping in unison and seeing how beautiful the film looks and sounds in HD was fantastic. But was it “Planet Earth” magnificent in picture and audio quality? Bare in mind, these two were shot several years apart using different technology and with “Planet Earth” being more recent, it definitely has the edge in picture quality.
But by no means is “Winged Migration” a slouch when it comes to picture quality. It still looks beautiful now as it was in 2001 and because it has been given the high definition treatment, picture and audio quality is much, much better than the previous DVD release.
So, you ask yourself the question. Would you enjoy a film like “Winged Migration”? There is no major plot, it’s a straightforward nature film about the many birds who migrate. So, it depends on how you feel about nature and if you can watch a film about birds traveling around the world. Many have been in awe of beautiful cinematography and the accompanying music. It’s definitely a special and unique film and if you want to watch beauty in action, beauty from all continents captured on film, you really can’t go wrong with “Winged Migration”. Highly recommended!
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