The Central Park Effect is a term used by scientists to describe the phenomenon in which migrating birds funnel into Central Park in New York City en route to their final destination. This concentration of birds is one of the most brilliant events in birdwatching, despite being buried in the largest city in the United States.
The Central Park Effect is the subject of a documentary appearing on HBO Monday at 9 p.m. called “Birders: The Central Park Effect.” However, the amazing documentary features more than just birds—it explores the unique world of passionate birders, including Jonathan Franzen and Starr Saphir.
Saphir, one of the main characters in the hour-long documentary, has given birdwatching tours of Central Park for 30 years. Despite being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, she continues to find joy and escape in the birds. Franzen, the famed novelist, also shares his passion and addiction for birding in the film.
The documentary was a selection in the 2012 SXSW selection in the Documentary Feature Competition and has received glowing reviews for its cinematography, portrayal of birders and pure aesthetic qualities.
Of course, like everything out there, the film has received criticism. Some birders claim that the film makes birding look far too easy. Since the film highlights some of the great sightings instead of showing a lot of empty trees, it looks like you simply go to the park, look up and spot an array of rare and exciting birds.
Saphir was quoted in a New York Times article about the film, and she does not think the movie is too simplistic.
“I have two children who are nonbirders,” she said. “I knew they were going to see it and it was going to make them understand about birding.” She added, “It’s going to make a whole lot of other people who don’t look at birds as a regular part of their lives understand a little bit more about what we do and more importantly why we do it.”
Overall, this is an excellent documentary to watch with your birding or non-birding friends because there’s something for everyone to love, whether birding, nature, photography, personal story lines or great filmmaking.
After you watch, be sure to come back and tell us what you thought.