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‘The Messenger’ bears an important warning

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The Messenger documentary

‘The Messenger’ bears an important warning

The Messenger documentary
It’s quite apt that Su Rynard’s award-winning The Messenger, a documentary about the ecological plight of songbirds, comes bearing wisdom– and a warning– for all of us.

After all, mythology teaches us that we can learn wisdom from the language of songbirds: from the ancient Kaballah (which regarded the language of birds as the key to perfect knowledge) to the Norse god Odin bearing two ravens on his shoulders named Huginn and Muninn (‘thought’ and ‘mind’ in old Norse, respectively).

Documenting The Messenger

Rynard, a Canadian filmmaker, traveled around the world to document the deep-seated connection between us and songbirds, from the Boreal Forest in the north to the base of Mount Ararat in Turkey to the streets of New York.

More importantly, this documentary outlines the human-sized dangers both large (like climate change) and small (building windows) faced by songbirds like thrushes, warblers, orioles, and other music-makers in today’s environment.

Rynard interviewed prominent bird experts for this film, from York University biology professor Bridget Stutchbury (author of the 2007 book Silence of the Songbirds) to Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Director Peter Marra.

Released April of this year, The Messenger had its premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and took home third place in the Top Ten Audience Award.

Likewise, the documentary has also won a Best Conservation Program Award at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Jackson, Wyoming last October and a Special Mention at the CinemAmbiente Enviromental Film Festival in Italy.

Reviewing The Messenger

But The Messenger is more than a documentary, showcasing the beauty of the songbirds shot in both stunning display and in motion.

The blog BirdWatching Daily says, “We see Indigo Buntings, Blackburnian and Black-throated Blue Warblers, and other birds flying in slow motion against a black background– scenes that were shot in an avian research center’s artificial wind tunnel.”

“And Rynard and her team do not shy away from showing dead birds (victims of window strikes), cats preying on backyard birds, and other disturbing images,” the review notes.

On the other hand, Sheri Linden of Hollywood Reporter says, “Awe and hard science share center stage in The Messenger, a wide-ranging study of songbirds’ dwindling numbers and the people who are working to protect them.”

“Traveling the world to spotlight challenges and solutions, filmmaker Su Rynard never loses sight of the winged tunesters’ sheer beauty, or their emotional and symbolic pull as perceived intermediaries between the earthly and spiritual,” Linden adds.

Describing songbirds as “instrumental in Mother Nature’s soundtrack”, Alexander Rogalski of Hot Docs notes, “The peril of avian species is a literal canary in the coal mine for humans, if we’re willing to listen and take action before they’re silenced.”

“The elegance of these colourful creatures is captured in stunning slow-motion flight as ecologists, enthusiasts and everyday people work to protect them and petition for change,” Rogalski said.

Check out the trailer below on The Messenger documentary. Likewise, check out our feature in Lesbian News’ December issue.

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