If the viewer experiences a degree of deja vu while watching “The Crimson Wing,” the reason is fairly ease to explain: this Disney documentary is “March of the Penguins” transplanted from icy Antarctica to steamy central Africa, with the stout black-and-white penguins replaced with willowy pink flamingos.
“The Crimson Wing” centers on Tanzania’s Lake Natron, which is home to an annual visit of family-building flamingos. The birds lay their eggs and raise their young in this area, and the film follows the early development of flamingos from egg-hatching to full-flight. But not every chick makes it to adulthood: predators including the Maribou stork, hyena and mongoose prey on the helpless little birds, while the lake’s abnormally high salt content creates a thick-drying paste that cements itself to the legs and feathers of the weak chicks and fatally dooms them.
The film is blessed with an abundance of breathtaking cinematography, but at times it feels that “The Crimson Wing” relies too much on its grand imagery – at 78 minutes, the film feels padded with pretty pictures that never truly propel the story. A quick post-script flashed on screen warns of pollution and encroachment at the lake, and it is a shame the film didn’t document these disruptive forces.
However, the G-rated film (despite its content shortcomings) works well as an educational vehicle for younger viewers. The DVD’s special features also provide insight on how the film was shot, which could also inspire future documentary directors to understand what goes into making nature-based productions.