Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Crimson Wing

This post was originally written on 20th September, 2009.

Today, thanks to Sunday Times, we got free tickets to watch The Crimson Wing, a documentary about the lives of a million East Africa’s lesser flamingos. The film will be released in the UK later this month.

The Crimson Wing centres on the yearly migration of the flamingos to the shores of the salt lake Natron in northern Tanzania. At certain times of the year, the lake turns red as microscopic organisms bloom. The flamingos are said by local tribes to get their colour from the lake. The film also explained that in Latin ‘flamingo’ means fire and that the birds may be related to the myth of the phoenix.

The flamingos come to Lake Natron in the rainy season. After it stops raining, the water in the lake quickly evaporates, forming a giant salt island in the centre. This is where the flamingos build salt nests and lay eggs. It is a harsh environment to raise the very young. For example, although most of the chicks survive, some die because salt dries on their legs forming heavy and irremovable shackles, making it impossible for them to catch up with the rest of the flock or making them easy prey for enemies. The film follows the plight and growth of the young flamingos in different parts of the lake until they acquire their own fully-grown wings and fly away to other lakes in Africa, only to return the next year.

The documentary was full of startling images, especially the courting ritual of the birds as well as the close-up of their beautiful crimson feathers. However, the narration at times could seem sentimental and lacking in substance. I guess this is not surprising from a nature film produced by Disney. For example, some of the narration featured fairy tale-like language and referred to predators as ‘witches’. Still, it was an enjoyable film and the orchestration was effective.

At the end of the film, we are told that this unique habitat is under threat from pollution and development. The film is part of an environmental campaign to save the lake from a salt mine which is proposed for the area.

2 Responses “The Crimson Wing” →

September 22, 2009
distant relative, in case you were wondering

September 23, 2009
Steve, your distant relative is so beautiful!

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