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Three important films to watch this week

Todd McGrain’s Heath Hen sculpture overlooks a field on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where the species went extinct. Courtesy The Lost Bird Project
Todd McGrain’s Heath Hen sculpture overlooks a field on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where the species went extinct. Courtesy The Lost Bird Project

Just in time for Earth Day, PBS and its subchannel World are airing three documentary films this week that we highly recommend.

The Great Invisible

Oil-soaked birds after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Courtesy Oil Documentary, LLC
Oil-soaked birds after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Courtesy Oil Documentary, LLC

Filmmaker Margaret Brown traveled to small towns and major cities across Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas to explore the fallout of the Gulf oil disaster, which began five years ago, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. Years later, Gulf state residents still haunted by the explosion provide first-hand accounts of their ongoing experience, long after the story has faded from the front page.

As Brown says, the “great invisible” that gives the film its title is still out there — the unseen crude that sunk to the ocean floor, the unanswered questions about the consequences of oil consumption on a massive scale, and the forgotten people whose lives were forever changed by the disaster.

The film, which won the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, is part of the PBS series Independent Lens. Check local listings for air times in your area.

Watch a preview and see clips.

At least 820,000 birds perished in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The Lost Bird Project

Over 10 years, sculptor Todd McGrain created six-foot bronze statues of five extinct North American species: Passenger Pigeon, Heath Hen, Carolina Parakeet, Labrador Duck, and Great Auk. He decided early on that the sculptures would not be complete until they could be seen and touched, so that people would learn the birds’ stories. Today the works are on display in Chicago, Wausau, Wisconsin, and at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

McGrain’s goal is to educate people about extinct species, and in The Lost Bird Project, we follow along as he works to place his sculptures near the locations where the birds were last seen in the wild.

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The documentary will air on World on Thursday and Friday, April 23 and 24. (World is carried on these stations.)  Check local listings.

Watch the trailer.

From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction

Joel Greenberg
Joel Greenberg

This film tells the story of the Passenger Pigeon’s demise from billions of birds in the 1800s to the death of Martha, the last individual, in 1914. It follows Joel Greenberg, author of the acclaimed book A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction and our February 2014 feature story Like Meteors from Heaven, in his ongoing work to raise awareness about the bird through Project Passenger Pigeon.

From Billions to None will air on World on Thursday and Friday, April 23 and 24. Check local listings. It will also be screened at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Dubuque, Iowa, on April 23 and 25, and at the Great Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Marquette University in Milwaukee on May 2. After the Milwaukee screening, Greenberg and director David Mrazek will participate in a talkback.

Watch the trailer.

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Read our review of The Lost Bird Project and From Billions to None.

Read more articles about the Passenger Pigeon.

Originally Published

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