How entertaining could a film about bird watching be? When the bird watchers are Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, the film, The Big Year…Not very I’m afraid! But, I’ve got three films to keep you tense, cringing, scared, laughing out loud and all of which hit the mark in one way or another.
Fanatical birdwatchers have descended upon a small town in the Arkansas bayou in hopes of finding the celebrated Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Declared extinct in the 1940’s, the bird has apparently been spotted by numerous experts. Enter amateur birder and poet Johnny Neander, who has convinced his taciturn sidekick that he will be the one to find the elusive woodpecker. The ensuing chaos divides the small town between believers and non-believers, rabid environmentalists and opportunistic entrepreneurs. Much like the bird itself, Woodpecker explores the intersection of fact and fiction, manipulating our notions of documentary and narrative techniques within a tragic comedy about hope, perception, and some very very strange birds.
“a great, funny and surprisingly moving film that’s not to be missed.” – FILM THREAT
89 minutes released by Carnivalesque Films
Alex MacQueen is an actor who has a special place in the hearts of comedy connoisseurs for his recurring role in Armando Iannucci’s TV satire The Thick of It. Now he gives a tremendous turn – witty, and with unexpected depth – in this claustrophobic, tense, ultra-low-budget British film with a neat final twist: the story of an ordinary bloke who comes face to face with a killer. He plays the hapless Roy, a middle-aged “twitcher” or birdwatcher, who spends days on end holed up in a ramshackle wooden shed in the middle of the Suffolk mudflats-The Hide of the title. Poor Roy gets nerdishly over excited about spotting various feathered rarities, fussing over his binoculars and his packed lunch, crammed with spicy meat-paste sandwiches. He also, in the manner of lonely souls who have lived too long on their own, talks to himself, or rather to a photograph of his absent wife.
- The Hide
- Production year: 2008
- Country: UK
- Cert (UK): 15
- Runtime: 82 mins
- Directors: Marek Losey
- Cast: Alex MacQueen, Phil Campbell, Philip Campbell
One dullish day, the door to Roy’s hide opens, and he has a visitor: this is Dave, played by Phil Campbell, a very scary-looking, taciturn scouser with close-cropped hair, a tattoo snaking up his neck and a long coat, under which he is carrying a gun. At first, dysfunctional Roy doesn’t quite understand who or what Dave actually is. But Dave is interested to learn from his stammering, nervy host that people can stay for long periods of time in these hides without anyone bothering them – and there is a police helicopter clattering overhead. They are destined to spend quite a bit of time in each other’s company, and as they begin to relax, they discover they have more in common than they realise.
Dave’s icy contempt for the silly business of birdwatching softens, as it triggers memories of his own childhood, and he is amused and even touched at Roy’s naivety and vulnerability. When he discovers his full name is “Roy Tunt”, Phil asks with a wintry smile if that didn’t get him plenty of nicknames. “Oh yes,” says Roy brightly, “Roy Rogers, Roy of the Rovers, you name it.”
The movie was originally a stage play, entitled The Sociable Plover, by actor and writer Tim Whitnall, who has adapted it for the screen.
One from yesteryear is ‘The Tawny Pipit’ a black and white propaganda film from 1944 about a small community in the rural countryside of England guarding the nest site of a pair of Tawny Pipits (stunt doubled in the film by a pair(s) of Meadow Pipit) during the Battle of Britain.
‘The Tawny Pipit’ (1944)
During the Second World War Jimmy Bancroft (Niall MacGinnis), a fighter pilot just released from hospital, and his nurse (now his girlfriend) Hazel Broome (Rosamund John) are on a walking tour through the countryside. They arrive at the fictional village of Lipsbury Lea and being keen birdwatchers, discover that a pair of tawny pipits, which are rarely seen in England, are nesting nearby.
Staying in the village, they enlist the locals to protect the nesting site until the eggs hatch. The villagers do so with great enthusiasm, led by the fiery retired Colonel Barton-Barrington (Bernard Miles) and the Reverend Mr. Kingsley.
Unfortunately, the field where the nest is located (known locally as the pinfold) is due to be ploughed up by order of the county agricultural committee, and a delegation to the Ministry of Agriculture in London fails to get the order rescinded. Fortunately, the Minister was Barton-Barrington’s junior at school, and personally intervenes to save the field from being ploughed.
The eggs duly hatch, but not before a plot to steal the eggs on behalf of an unscrupulous dealer is foiled by an alert army corporal (an amateur ornithologist) who is serving nearby.