Love Owls? Watch 5 Films to Feed Your Owl Obsession on NFB.ca
Owls are special birds. At once feared and revered, they hold a unique place in world symbolism, folklore and imagination.
Associated to wisdom, foresight and knowledge, and to spookier themes such as darkness, secrets and witches, owls have fascinated humans since the dawn of times. Indeed, one of the earliest human drawings, painted on a cave wall in France and dating back to the early Paleolithic period, was of a cute family of snowy owls.
Celebrate and learn more about these oft-misunderstood creatures of the night with these 5 short films for owl lovers.
The Lady and the Owl
The Lady and the Owl, William Canning, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
You will learn more cool owl facts you will ever know what to do with in this quaint and retro short doc about a couple who live in the Ontarian countryside with, at the time of filming, 3 dogs and “88 owls on premise”. Motivated by wildlife preservation, they devote their retirement to nursing injured owls of every kind back to health, eventually releasing them back into the wild. Most of the birds they take in have been shot at (???), some have hit wires, even airplanes. Off-the-wall owl trivia aside, the film is buoyed by the character of the Owl Lady, who is definitely as interesting as – if not more than – her winged patients. Such passion! She imitates all of the owl calls, cradles big owls in her arms like babies and laughs about how her big female owl Weeper “thinks she’s a people” and wants to breed with her, “which is a little awkward.” Her husband Larry thinks she’s effectively turning into an owl. Better than those people who like she says, “wring their hands about wildlife depletion and do nothing about it.”
(Warning: the film involves some scenes that might disturb animal lovers, including a dead baby owl, and live mice being fed to owls.)
Owl and the Lemming: An Eskimo Legend
The Owl and the Lemming: An Eskimo Legend, Co Hoedeman, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
Here, a hungry owl named Ookpik makes a chance encounter with a possible snack (in the form of a lemming) and ends up with nothing but a grumbling stomach and a furious Mrs. Ookpik. A fine sealskin puppet animation by Co Hoedeman.
Owl and the Raven: An Eskimo Legend
Owl and the Raven: An Eskimo Legend, Co Hoedeman, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
This other Co Hoedeman puppet animation illustrates the legend of how the raven got its jet-black feathers. The story involves our friend Owl, a rather ho-hum Inuit bone game he plays with Raven inside an igloo, and a pair of kamiks (sealskin boots) that end up having rather extreme repercussions.
Owl who Married a Goose: An Eskimo Legend
The Owl Who Married a Goose: An Eskimo Legend, Caroline Leaf, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
In this short animation by Caroline Leaf (The Street, Two Sisters), an owl falls head over heels… for a goose. Things are good at first, and offsprings even spring forth, but the struggles inherent to cross-cultural (or cross-species) relationships soon crop up. Infused with the wry humor characteristic of many Inuit tales, the film is visually striking but surprisingly dark, and perhaps not the best for children. Let us just say it doesn’t end well.
The Sniffing Bear
The Sniffing Bear, Co Hoedeman, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
This exploration of NFB owls wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to the wise owl in The Sniffing Bear, a short film about the perils of huffing gas by animator Co Hoedeman (him again.) Made in collaboration with First Nations inmates at La Macaza Penitentiary in Northern Quebec, the film tells the story of a polar bear who inhales fumes from an abandoned gas can. Happily for him, other ice-floe inhabitants have his back: a caring owl, flanked by a seal, appear on the scene to help show the bear the error of his ways.