Disneynature released The Crimson Wing in 2010, and I’m not sure how I never noticed it. Given that there are around 2 million lesser flamingos in East Africa, it’s about time a movie was made about them!
The movie starts out with an unfamiliar image of Tanzania – the smoldering top of Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Maasai mountain of God. It is an active volcano, and it is its sodium carbonate that has helped to craft the waters of Lake Natron, one of east Africa’s acidic soda lakes. The often red-hued lake is the birthplace of the lesser flamingos.
The birds color comes from eating the algae found in Natron’s waters. They go from white to a brilliant crimson from their feeding. Watching these large birds cruise over crystal water with their fiery plumage is an inspiring sight.
The movie tells the story of the flamingo life cycle, from courtship to birth in Lake Natron’s hellish and inhospitable alkaline environment, to first flight and back again. It is beautifully shot, with sweeping images of birds in flight, aerial views of Natron and surrounds, and perfect music and narration to accompany them. It will likely make you want to add some time in Lake Natron to a Tanzanian safari!
The story is not for the faint of heart, however. While Natron’s environment is not ideal for predators, it does not mean they are absent. As with all stories in nature, part of the life cycle includes death, and in this case death of cute, downy birds. That should not be a deterrent to watching the movie, but it may bear watching to judge whether it is age-appropriate for children.
A beautiful nature film – highly recommended.