The falcon that was originally intended to star in Seane Winslow’s The Falconer flew a few days before the start of filming. So Winslow and his team had to find a new hawk to star in the movie – and train it in real time during production.
âTwo days before filming started in Oman, we had a falcon going to bed. She was going to star in our movie, she was from Dubai, and the falconer’s brother took her to play with her and she was like, i don’t respect you, and she booked it and completely, like, flew away, never to come back, âWinslow said in a question-and-answer session after the screening at SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
“So we started to shoot The Falconer hawk-free.
The Falconer was filmed in Oman, an Arabic speaking country on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula sandwiched between Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Winslow said it is the first feature film shot entirely in Oman. Based on a true story, the film follows two best friends who work together at a local zoo, Tariq (Rami Zahar), the son of a poor beekeeper, and Cai (Rupert Fennessy), a privileged Westerner. When Tariq’s sister Alia (Noor Al-Huda) tries to escape her abusive marriage, Tariq and Cai begin stealing animals – including a hawk named Ameera – from the zoo with the intention of selling them in order to help. to pay for Alia’s divorce.
But actual falconry isn’t as easy as the characters suggest in the movie.
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âFalconry is not like training a dog or a horse that you control. In falconry, you are an equal to the hawk, and the hawk will only come to you if it respects you, âsaid Winslow.
Lucky for her, she had the real Cai, wildlife curator and skilled falconer Tarim Contin-Kennedy, on the set. Having trained 86 hawks in his day, he was able to get them a new hawk and train it on set, much like the characters train him in the movie.
“He [Kennedy] befriends Bedouins and we buy this wild falcon from these Bedouins and start training it on the set, âWinslow recalls. (Bedouin is a term for a nomadic group living in the desert.) Trust that Tarim builds – the real life that Cai builds – with Ameera. And that moment actually in the movie where she flies towards the glove for the first time, was the first time that she had flown this far for us. I’m so proud of our actorsâ¦ they stayed in their character at that point, but they were completely freaked out like, ‘Oh my god, that just worked!’ “
Oh, and here’s some good news to leave you with: The hawk that plays Ameera was released back into the wild in 2019.
Main picture: Rami Zahar (left), Ameera the falcon and Rupert Fennessy in The Falconer. Photo credit: SCAD / Required reading.