This multi award-winning tale tells the extraordinary story of how a population of wild New Zealand falcons have managed to survive in the face of fierce commercial forestry logging practices. It also tells the story of two friends – conservationist and director Sandy Crichton, and 88-year-old wildlife photographer George Chance.
Bound by their mutual love and admiration for the falcons, Chance’s failing health and eyesight inspires the young Crichton to capture footage of the falcons as a tribute to the latter’s body of work from the 1970’s. What begins as an empathetic response to fulfil a friend’s final wish to see the magnificent birds on film ends up becoming the chance of a lifetime. When Crichton begins filming the falcons, he inadvertently becomes witness to new falcon behaviour, capturing a turning point in the ecological evolution of the wild birds.
During the making of “Karearea: the pine falcon” filmmaker Sandy Crichton spent three breeding seasons in commercial pine plantations filming wild New Zealand falcons. He also took on the voluntary role of falcon consultant with Wenita Forest Products, the owners of commercial forests throughout the South Island of New Zealand. The role involved locating New Zealand falcon (karearea) nest sites within the plantations, whilst liaising with neighbouring landowners and forestry workers to monitor falcon activity.
This was essential for filming purposes but it also served as an early warning system for contractors working in the same areas as nesting falcons. During the course of filming, the filmmaker visited forestry workers during their breaks and provided training and support in karearea identification and behaviour. Nestcams were used to illustrate the disturbance caused by forestry activities close to nests. Not only did the film reveal completely new falcon behavioural adaptations in response to life in commercial pine plantations, but it also led to positive change. As a direct result of filming, many karearea nests were located and consequently protected. The filmmaker co-wrote a ‘best practice’ work strategy for Wenita Forest Products, which is still helping to protect karearea nests throughout the region of Otago to this day.
By Jason Peters