BY DAYNA PAPALEO
“The Lost Bird Project”
(NR), directed by Deborah Dickson
Screens Saturday and Sunday at the Dryden
Maybe you’ve seen the five black sculptures of birds on the grounds of the George Eastman House. On display through September 30, they represent a handful of species that were, by and large, hunted to extinction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibition’s accompanying documentary, also titled “The Lost Bird Project,” screens on Saturday followed by a panel discussion featuring the filmmakers, and on Sunday followed by a walking tour of the pieces. Directed by Deborah Dickson, the absorbing but bittersweet film depicts an elegiac labor of love, as sculptor Todd McGrain and his brother-in-law, Andy Stern, trek throughout the Eastern Seaboard to secure homes for McGrain’s tributes to the lost species.
Passion and purpose meet red tape and bureaucracy during their quest, which takes McGrain and Stern as far north as Newfoundland in search of an appropriate spot for the sculpture of the Great Auk, and as far south as Florida to honor the Carolina Parakeet in the place it was last seen. We learn the history of the individual breeds and meet their closest living relatives, which helps to allow us a hazy glimpse at the lost birds. And while these particular fowl obviously won’t be coming back, the remaining strains are all counting on us not to screw it up again.