Alessandro Croseri's documentary about the use of pigeons by the military centers on the centenarian pigeon handler Col. Clifford Poutre.
There’s no doubting that The Pigeoneers, Alessandro Croseri’s documentary about the use of pigeons by the military, is a labor of love. That’s true of both the filmmaker, a breeder of pigeons himself who clearly feels passionately about his subject matter, and Col. Clifford Poutre, the centenarian pigeon handler who is the film’s chief subject.
Poutre, age 103 at the time of the filming, was the Chief Pigeoneer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, responsible for supervising the training of the winged creatures who would go on to perform vital military duties.
Most of you will probably be unaware that pigeons served such a role, and that ignorance is precisely what the film hopes to redress. It basically consists of lengthy interview segments with the elderly colonel, clad in his military uniform, and copious amounts of archival footage and photographs accompanied by vintage Glenn Miller tunes.
Poutre, who clearly still very much had his wits about him, describes his methods in detail, including his rejection of starvation and punishment training techniques in favor of rewarding his birds with kindness. In an interesting digression, he talks about his friendship with famed inventor Nikola Tesla, apparently quite the pigeon fancier himself.
The problem is, the director previously made an eight-minute short film about the same topic, The Flight, which would probably be enough to satisfy most viewer’s curiosity about the arcane subject matter. Here, the proceedings ramble on at inordinate length, with redundancy and tedium setting in early. It’s hard to imagine that this feature is apparently merely the first installment of a planned trilogy.
Still, it seems downright unpatriotic not to celebrate the accomplishments of these birds who served valiantly and who were rewarded with such honors as the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Medal. Now, if only they would stop pooping on my head.
Opened: June 8 (Alessandro Croseri Productions)
Director/screenwriter/producer/director of photography/editor: Alessandro Croseri
Producers: Avon Jong, Alessandro Croseri
No rating, 111 min.