In “Vogel Vrij” we see what happens when humans and animals have to share the airspace. In Edward Cook’s visual narration, various characters grapple with their curious relationship with the feathered and sometimes quite unpredictable cross-flyers. Can man manage to control everything or does nature have the last word in the battle for the skies?
Schiphol is one of the busiest and largest airports in Europe, an epicenter of economic activity and the most important transport hub on Dutch soil. But in the immediate vicinity there are also many grasslands full of nutritious greenery, areas that mainly exert a magical attraction for thousands of geese. There is therefore a certain tension between the presence of the army of feathered vegetarians and flight safety, especially since dozens of jumbo jets cut through the North Holland airspace every day. In “Vogel Vrij” director Edward Cook focuses on this problem on the basis of various people who are directly involved in the issue. For example, we hear a wildlife fighter who catches and gasses geese, we follow a female falconer who tries to chase away geese and other unwanted feathered guests with her birds of prey, and we see two men who designed the so-called Robird, a robot bird that must have a deterrent effect on unwanted birds. The personal stories are interspersed with news reports and stories showing what the consequences could be of a collision between bird and airplane. Often such an incident only ends badly for the animal in question, but the chance that a defective engine will result in a plane crash is also not purely imaginary.
Although Cook does not explicitly choose one side and mainly opts for a well-considered approach in which he gives the floor to all persons featured, his documentary shows (perhaps unconsciously) that love for nature and animal welfare in the Netherlands are structurally lost against economic interests and ultimate risk limitation. . Although you could say that the wildlife fighter in the film is only doing his job, the images of dozens of geese being hunted in a container and then dying to gas will not appeal to animal lovers. And the man in question’s statement that he likes many aspects of his work will not get him much sympathy in certain circles.
Still, it would be too easy to lose out on wildlife managers alone, because they can only carry out their work in practice because a majority of politicians and the Dutch people consider security interests and economic arguments more important than nature and animal welfare. And let’s be honest, most of us like to fly to an exotic destination from time to time if money permits. Do we have the right to sacrifice the natural inhabitants of the airspace for our own pleasure and safety? It remains a difficult question to which, depending on which interests you hold dear, several answers are possible.
So you can say that “Vogel Vrij” does have an eye for the complexity of the issue, without shunning quite graphic images in which geese are caught and gassed. A substantively quite strong and impartial documentary, although not every character that is dealt with in this short film has the same meaning to report and “Bird Free” actually misses a contribution from someone from nature for the overall picture.