New Falconry Documentary From Durham Filmmakers Urges To Reconnect With “Your Inner Wild Side”

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By the road | Thursday September 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday October 2 at 2:00 p.m. | North Carolina Art Museum, Raleigh


Like many filmmakers, Elisabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue faced the frustration of seeing cinemas close in 2020 just as their new film was set to premiere.

For the married co-directors of Durham, the delays on By the road, their falconry documentary, were particularly painful given that the film’s expansive and award-winning visuals were made for the big screen.

“It’s a little heartbreaking to have made this film with such care and ambition imagining how it would play out for a common audience on the big screen,” said James, Emmy and Peabody-winning director of documentaries such as Love story and Althea. “The majority of people who have seen it so far are doing so through these virtual film festivals – where hopefully they are at least showing it on their TVs, but they might be watching it on their phones. . This is not how this movie is meant to be experienced.

The filmmakers, who first met during the making of a documentary on the rediscovery of the ivory-beaked woodpecker, once considered extinct, will finally have the chance to show the Triangle. By the road as planned, during an epic outdoor premiere at the North Carolina Museum of Art on Thursday, September 30, with an additional family morning screening on October 2, followed by related programming, including a session of bird watching with a ranger on the museum grounds.

The September 30 premiere also features one of the film’s subjects, Lauren McGough, an anthropologist who trains wounded eagles and delivers one of the movie’s best lines: “Time crumbles when you’ve got an eagle in your fist. . “

By the road, whose filming spanned five years, covers McGough’s journeys, with falconers Giovanni Granati and Khalifa Bin Mujren, across seven countries on four continents for several years, showing how their stories parallel and sometimes overlap.

“We found out on the second day of filming, that what we were interested in was less the ins and outs of how to be a falconer and more what it is psychologically and emotionally that brings this group of people together – and therefore, the public, in the wild, ”says James.

The film explores not only the 6,000-year-old art of falconry, but the nature of the connection and obsession falconers have with their birds, the connection between birds and humanity, and of course, between man and nature.

All the while, these themes play against visuals from the deserts of Dubai to the snow-capped mountains of Mongolia.

“We had no idea that the film would develop the way it did when we first started, that we would be so mesmerized by these three characters who are at the heart of the story, or that it would take us through so many. ‘interesting places. ” said Jacques. “It was a truly joyful experience to be able to be with these people as their lives evolved, their relationships with their birds evolved and their research evolved, and to travel alongside them.”

The film deliberately emphasizes plans and landscapes devoid of modern technology and structures, to better help the audience to come into contact with what La Noue calls “your inner savage”.

“I think a lot of people right now, when they’re dealing with cell phones and video games and traffic and all those things that compress our sense of nature, will find [that] this film will help channel this feeling of freedom, of being wild, ”says La Noue.

“And of course the birds of prey themselves are so magical. And we always see them in the sky or in the trees, and you just watch every movement, and you just feel privileged to see a bird in the wild. Having these wild birds just inches from our camera and the falconers able to bring these wild birds in front of our camera and for us to be able to design shots and make great cinematography with these birds is like a bridge to this wild that I don’t ‘ I don’t think anyone else has ever been in a movie.

While plans to bring By the road to theaters remain on the move while the theaters themselves remain in influx, James and La Noue just say they are happy with the screening at the Art Museum, where their film can be seen as it was meant to be.

“Our executive producers, the musicians who play live on the score, so many people involved in the film are from the area,” said James. “Being able to bring Overland home and show it, not just to them, but to their families, then to our friends, then to the general public, it’s really exciting for us.


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