Film: California: Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Film Festival: 2010

The Birds Have It

By Jared Winslow

The Legend of Pale Male (Frederic Lilien, director)

Pale Male is the famous red-tailed hawk of Central Park, New York City.  He has been in the news almost since he came to Central Park in 1992, up to right now.  This movie shows the filmmaker, Frederic Lilien, originally from Belgium, watching him and filming him all those years.  The filmmaker, who is sometimes in the film, is also the narrator.  He added humor to the story.  Pale Male has had four mates since he arrived in New York City (the first three died) and has had chicks with each one.  
The movie shows how Pale Male attracted a loyal following of fans, watching him in the park almost constantly.  But he really made the news when his nest was taken down from its spot on a Fifth Avenue apartment building.  The residents had voted to remove it because of all the attention.  But that caused an uproar.  Pale Male’s supporters rallied for him, with the Audubon Society and Mary Tyler Moore (who lives in the building) helping.  There was lots of news coverage and the building’s residents built him a new nest. 
Pale Male is very old now.  His children roam free in various parts of the New York City area.  He is a very special hawk.

The Legend of Pale Male" premieres in NYC on November 24, 2010 at the Angelika. To see the trailer, please go to

A Murder of Crows (Susan Fleming, director)

You know how a group of cattle is called a herd, or most birds are flocks.  Well, a murder is in fact a group of crows.  You might think of crows as just another bird, but they are very smart.  And I mean smart.  This fascinating documentary shows us what scientists are discovering about these common birds. 
Crows in the wild will make tools by taking lots of snips at twigs to make spears.  They make tools!  Now imagine a 3-step problem – for a crow to solve.  I’ll explain it:  1) There is a perch with a string hanging down holding a stick.  2) There is also a box with bars, with a stick in it.  3) Another box with food in the end sits next to both.  A scientist filmed the crow solving this problem.  Without unsuccessful tries or taking too long to look at the problem, the crow pulls up the string with the stick tied at the end and uses that stick to reach the bigger stick in the box.  The crow then uses the bigger stick to get the food.  It was amazing!

They also recognize individual human faces, mourn the deaths of other crows, and communicate with each other in complex ways.  All of this was shown and discussed by the people studying them. 
Crows are the smartest birds – not parrots as some might think.  Do you still think crows are ordinary? 
Now, the next time you happen to see one, you might look at it differently and admire it more.  A lot more.  I do.

2010 Santa Barbara International Film Festival INDEX

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