Winged Migration

The 2005 headlines announcing a sighting of the long-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker in an Arkansas swamp filled our own dimwit species with delusions of hope. Maybe we hadn’t fucked up the planet beyond repair, after all! The residents of nearby Brinkley, blessed with a bounty of birdwatching tourists from around the globe, counted their chickens and dispensed with the larger philosophical and environmental implications. Until, that is, photographs of the winged celebrity proved inconclusive and no additional evidence of the precious ivory-billed woodpecker’s existence — including a second glimpse — ever emerged. East Bay documentary maker Scott Crocker’s gorgeous and haunting Ghost Bird etches the past as well as the present with a poignant blend of history, wit, and science. Trained as a visual anthropologist, Crocker discerns the needs of each of the players (thriving storekeepers, tenured academics, passionate birders, and others) to construct a comforting version of the facts. All their words become rather meaningless, though, when we’re presented with drawer after drawer of ivory-billed woodpeckers, cavalierly collected a century ago as “specimens” for an Ivy League university’s study and collection. Who’s the dodo now?
Thu., Dec. 16, 7 p.m., 2010

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