Thursday, April 15, 2010

Woodpecker picture

Last night, I saw the mockumentary, "Woodpecker," a straight-to-DVD film about the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas. The film chronicles "Johnny," a part-time house painter and birder from Oregon, who travels to Arkansas to find the legendary ivory-bill. His traveling companion is "Wes," a young man who is silent and expressionless throughout the entire movie. The lead portrayals are so deadpan (think Borat or Bruno) that I didn't realize it was a mockumentary until embarrassingly late in the film.

The movie focuses on Johnny and Wes' time in the cypress swamp, searching for the bird. They also interact with a number of actual townspeople and a faux sheriff and ranger. A few real experts appear in the film, including David Sibley, who is skeptical of the ivory-bill rediscovery. I wouldn't say the movie was a laugh riot, but there are definitely some funny parts.

Some are angry at the portrayal of birders, but I think the anger is misplaced. It would have been easy to make fun of birders and their many quirks. Instead they created characters so absurd that they went beyond satire. Clearly, the filmmakers know something about birding, too.

As for the actual status of the ivory-billed woodpecker, there haven't been any confirmed sightings since the exciting rediscovery of 2004. By now, the flood of searchers in Arkansas surely would have found something to confirm the sighting. Even the best birders can get caught up in the excitement of a rarity. It's the same impulse I have each time I try to turn a common goldeneye into a barrow's goldeneye or a dark-eyed junco into an oregon junco.


Daily Chicago Photo said...

Where is this mock-doc available? And I laughed out loud about the Junco comment. I'm "convinced" some of the juncos I've been seeing have much darker heads and rosy sides. ;)))

sportsshrike said...

It's best not to overthink the juncos! I found Woodpecker on Blockbuster's mail service, and I'm sure Netflix would have it, too.