Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Directed by Scott Crocker.
This suspenseful and illuminating documentary follows the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a bird that scientists had labeled as extinct over sixty year ago. It may or may not still be extinct, depending on whom you believe. When a bird watcher canoes near the town of Brinkley, Arkansas, back in 2005, his video camera records what he believes to be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The image, though, is a bit blurry, and there’s not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable and scientific doubt that it’s truly the long-thought-extinct bird. Conversely, one can’t safely conclude that it isn’t extinct because, after all, just like Donald Rumsfeld once wisely stated (and whose brief clip is shown in the film), absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. The potential reemergence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker causes a sensation in the town of Brinkley as bird watchers, tourists and the media flock there in hopes of finding that must-needed concrete, photographic evidence of the bird’s existence. Director Scott Crocker offers well-balanced perspectives by interviewing a wide array of experts, ranging from a biologist, Dr. Jerome Jackson to Curator of Ornithology at Yale, Dr. Richard Plum to blogger Tom Nelson and to Nancy Tanner, wife of Ivory-billed Woodpecker expert Dr. James Tanner. Crocker also adds a bit of comic relief by showing the humorous ways in which the town of Brinkley adapted to the new media frenzy and the sharp rise in the number of visitors---in fact, a barber went to the extent of initiating hairdo which she called the “Woodpecker” while a hotel changed its name to Ivory-Billed Inn. Will someone be lucky enough to find concrete evidence of the bird once and for all? No matter what, you’re in for a suspenseful journey as everyone desperately searches for it while others continue to be skeptical. Audience members who aren’t familiar with the species of bird will find it useful when the experts describe background information about the bird, especially when it comes to its unique physical features that distinguish it from similar birds, and how deforestation led to its potential extinction. At a running time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, Ghost Bird manages to be well-balanced, provocative, illuminating and suspenseful.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Small Change Productions.
Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.

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