. Conversations at the Edge (CATE)

Dead Birds

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | September 11, 2003

Thursday, September 11, 2003, 8pm


“When I walked away from watching Dead Birds I almost seemed to stagger inside myself.  Today I am still jarred by it and still trying to understand the guilty significance of what it tells us about ourselves.” (Robert Lowell)

Highly acclaimed yet rarely screened outside of anthropology circles, Dead Birds is a non-fiction film about one of the most remote cultures on earth, the Dani of highlands New Guinea.  Filmmaker Robert Gardner (Forest of Bliss) was leader of a 1961-62 Harvard University expedition to the Dani’s Baliem Valley, where his team found a society of people locked in a pattern of incessant warfare against their immediate neighbors.  Sober in tone, yet with a certain gritty lyricism, Dead Birds focuses on the warrior Weyak and the boy Pua, the pig-tender, as they go about their daily lives in a world circumscribed by chronic anxiety, obligate vengeance and mourning (Jim Trainor). 1964, Robert Gardner, USA, 83 min, 16mm.