A Review: The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos

I finally got The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos delivered to me from the Disney Movie Club (darn their incredibly slow shipments!). When I first heard that Disneynature's first direct-to-video release would be a film about flamingos, I thought it strange. I mean, how is it that somebody comes to want to do a film about flamingos. Penguins I can see. But flamingos? In my mind, they were the iconic symbol of 1970s suburban lawns or those birds you pass by at the zoo on the way to look at more interesting animals. How interesting could a film about flamingos be?

Fortunately, The Crimson Wing shows that the life of a flamingo can actually be very interesting. There were lots of things I did not know about these amazing birds. Set against the backdrop of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania, we follow the life cycle of the flamingos.

The narrator explains, "There is a myth amongst the Masai that the flamingos are made from the water's soul. That they are the children of the lake." It's a beautiful way of looking at it and the film very much goes to show how close to the truth the Masai myth is.

First of all, Lake Natron looks to be an amazing place. It is surrounded by volcanoes and, every season, the water evaporates from the hot sun and the salt forms and thickens to create an actual salt island. It is on this island that the life of flamingos begin. They create little salt nests to hatch their eggs and the first part of a chick's life is spent in this salty environment.

Something I never realized was how protective a flamingo parent could be. We watch a flamingo coming out of its shell and you see the parent looking like it wants to help and just watches with great anticipation. Then, the great care of feeding the chick. It was really fascinating to watch. Once the flamingo is able to walk, it is fed into a totally social system of other flamingos. I never realized how much these birds depend on each other. I mean, I always see them standing about in the zoo in a group, but never really thought about it in this way.

But, as the Masai legend goes, these flamingos are children of the lake and, as such, they must make their way to water. Plus, life on a salt island can provide many challenges, including attacks by Marabou Storks and salt calcifying like shackles around the legs of chicks.

As with any nature film, it can be difficult, at times, to watch how the natural cycle works out for some of these birds. It is sometimes difficult to hear that hundreds of chicks will not make it to adulthood. But, its good for them to show this as the circle of life and not sugar coat it.

As with the other Disneynature films, The Crimson Wing is beautifully shot and makes you wonder how they get so close to these creatures without disturbing their way of living. It's a fine film that is worth of wearing the Disneynature brand. I highly recommend it, not just for its amazing cinematography, but to learn some fascinating things about an animal you might not really ever have thought about before.

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