I’m a nature girl, but in mid-August, I spent a week in New York with family. We did the city right: saw shows, visited museums, ate well, stayed out late listening to jazz and getting lost on the subways. I can’t go a week without nature, though. Time in Central Park helped maintain my sanity.
Have you ever had such a great vacation that you hated to let go? I’ve been home a couple weeks now, but I’m still in a New York state of mind. When my boyfriend suggested we watch a documentary about birders in Central Park, how could I resist?
I’ve never seen a story of people and nature told better than “Birders: The Central Park Effect.” The premise sounds simple: Amid skyscrapers and city crowds, birds find a green oasis, and people find birds. The cycle of seasons provides a framework for interviews with colorful New York characters, images of this grand and beautiful park, and precise, delightful wildlife footage.
But like all simple stories told well, “Birders: The Central Park Effect” sets out to explore more profound questions: the allure of birdwatching, the nexus of urban and wild, and at its center, one of the biggest questions of all: love. In the appreciative gaze of a filmmaker who shares their vision and heart, the people in this movie eloquently convey “what it is about birds.” That we are capable of such profound love for nature is incredibly heartening. Time and again I found myself on the edge of tears: of hope, recognition, and joy.
Jeffrey Kimball, the filmmaker, grew up in Northern California. “The highlights of our family camping trips were always the wild animals we would happen upon,” he writes in a director’s statement. When he moved to New York to work in film, he believed he’d left nature behind. Then he started going on bird walks in Central Park.
The paradox of nature in an urban landscape fascinated him. What does Central Park mean to the birds? To the birdwatchers? What can we learn from the wild creatures that thrive even in this entirely manmade landscape — and from the people who are irresistibly drawn to their beauty and wildness?
You’ll find answers of your own, and much to love, in “Birders: The Central Park Effect.”
According to centralparkbirdfilm.com, the movie is available on DVD or for rent.
Here’s a link to the trailer: