The Messenger, a song of life and hope

Birds are environmental indicators. When you look at what is happening with them, it is a way of tuning into the state of the planet. Birds have something to tell us and I wanted to amplify their message”.

With these words the director Su Rynard tells us about The Messenger, the documentary that obtained a Special Mention in the International Documentary Competition at CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival 2015 in Turin, member of the Green Film Network. With wonderful colors and sweet melodies, the film shows us more about the serious danger that, day by day, is threatening the life of many classes of songbirds. Deceptive buildings, artificial lights, pesticides, hunting and predators are just some of the reasons of their progressive disappearance.

The Messenger poster
A moving tale that arises from the deep connection between the director and nature. “I also connected to the issue through personal experience”, explains Su Rynard, whom we talked about the film with. “My family has a humble summer cottage about three hours North East of Toronto, and I have spent time there each year since I was born. Barn swallows swooped over the water, Cedar wax-wings foraged in the choke cherry tree, and I fell asleep to the call of the Whip-poor-will. If it weren’t for the scribbles my mom penciled in our field guide every year, we would have no evidence these birds ever lived in our corner of the world. I rationalized their disappearance as my own problem, only recently I realized it was part of a much bigger problem”.

With The Messenger we look at the world through the eyes of the birds: through their life-and-death struggle we realize how silently, and often unconsciously, we represent a threat for their life.

When I go to the cinema I want to be moved, inspired and engaged. I wanted nothing less for The Messenger. One of the biggest challenges in creating an environmental film is to not make people feel overwhelmed or guilty. We were successful in finding the right tone by featuring people in the film who are passionately working to solve problems. Real change occurs when people begin to positively care”.

Birds killed in collision

The documentary successfully obtains this result, giving the right information to the viewers so they can reflect upon the issue. With a soft style, the film contextualizes facts in a smart way.

It was important for me to situate the film stylistically, in both natural world and the modern world, and not to pretend that nature is something pure and separate from us”, the director points out. “I also wanted to visually emphasize the tension between the beauty of the natural world and the underlying ecological tragedy that is unfolding”.

Added value of The Messenger is the exceptional attention to the form, that creates a suggestive and moving portrait of the characteristic protagonists and their fascinating world.

The Messenger
I also wanted to bring viewers inside the world of birds, to find a way for people to really connect with these wild creatures and admire their beauty and resilience. The songbirds are tiny and they migrate at night, so we had to find a way to make the ‘invisible visible’. We filmed songbirds in near darkness in super slow motion to emulate their nocturnal epic migratory journey as well as it reveals the detailed mechanics of flight in a way that is rarely seen. Sounds also plays a very important role in the film. We meticulously recorded the location sound of every situation we were in. The musical score merges natural ambiences in rhythms and music. The resulting score is both exhilarating and emotional, it creates a space for people to reflect and ruminate”.

In many different ways the mankind is responsible for the death of thousands of birds, but there are many ways to fight this tragedy. The song of birds is a message of hope that people have to catch and decode, so that every creature can support and help each other.