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Winged Migration (2001) - Movie Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Winged Migration (2001) - Movie Review

A migrating bird winging it over the desert.

Sony Pictures Classics

The Bottom Line

Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud and their crew of 500 people spanned the globe for four years to capture these amazing and startlingly beautiful images of various species of migrating birds as they fly thousands of miles twice annually in search of food.
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  • A closer look at bird life than you've had before, even if you're a dedicated bird watcher.
  • Exquisite cinematography provides a travelog-like display of birds and habitats in full glory.
  • As light, airy and refreshing as a breeze, without overly weighty stats re bird life.
  • Excellent musical scoring transforms the birds' ritual behavior into a ballet of sorts.
  • An inspiring study of instinctual intellegence and the determination to survive.


  • Some bird species aren't identified, so can't look them up to find out more about them.
  • Some locations aren't specified, so you might get a bit confused about where you are.
  • The narrator has a French accent which some people may find difficult to understand.
  • The DVD extra about making the film is a bit of a spoiler, revealing that the birds were trained.
  • Presentation of important environmental issues is so subtle, some viewers may not get it.


  • Birds are amazing in flight, and the film's close up photography really lets you see just how hard they work to stay aloft.
  • In the Amazon, where locals catch exotic birds to sell them, an electric blue creature uses his beak to escape from his cage.
  • Birds use their wings for more than flying. Outstretched or flapping wings communicate attitude as clearly as vocal signals.
  • The film's images are so beautiful and calming, you could perpetually replay it as an environment enhancer at home or office.
  • The film was nominated for a the 2003 Best Documentary Feature Oscar, and several other awards.
  • Director Jacques Perrin, who is also a well-known actor, narrates Winged Migration.

Guide Review - Winged Migration (2001) - Movie Review

French filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud and their crew of 500 took four years to film this comprehensive close up of birds migrating thousands of miles each Spring and Fall to feed, mate and survive.

Their story, a fascinating and inspiring one, is told with broad strokes. Rather than introducing viewers to several birds that evolve as distinct characters, the film follows flocks of geese, cranes, pelicans, penguins and other species as they relocate from south to north and back again, flying over wilderness, farms, and urban areas--overcoming inclimate weather and their physical exhaustion.<p>Although the filmmakers' respect and appreciation for the birds is evident, they don't expected us to adopt the flocks as our feathered friends. In other words, there's no anthropomorphism to instruct us how to feel about these wild creatures. The filmmakers only guide our attention to environmental issues when the birds rarely encounter humans--a young boy frees a goose from a plastic fisherman's net, a woman hand feeds birds that stop to rest at her isolated farm, a farmhand unwittingly drives a thresher over a nesting chick, hunters shoot geese flying overhead and a bird becomes mired in oil spillage.

But the human impact--good or bad--seems almost incidental to the larger theme of how the birds' innate intelligence, physical fortitude and instinctual determination enable them to find their way half way around the world twice annually in search of food and survival. It is a truly amazing natural phenomenon.

Throughout the film, you wonder how in the world the filmmakers managed to position themselves so close to birds in flight, landing, swimming and displaying habitual behavior to each other. You'll find an explanation in a DVD extra about making the film--but my advice is to view the film in wonder before watching the extra.

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