DAY OF THE SPARROW is a political wildlife film.
It centres around a country where the border between war and peace fades. On November 14, 2005, a sparrow is shot dead in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, after it toppled over 23000 domino stones. A German soldier dies in Kabul as a result of a suicide bombing. With these headlines appearing side by side, Philip Scheffner is induced to use ornithological methods in his quest for the war. In Germany, not in Afghanistan. Since it is here that we are faced with the question: Are we living in a state of peace or war? His journey begins at the Baltic Sea, in 1974 on Super-8, childhood memories of a bird sanctuary situated between a military training zone and a sailing marina. Bird sightings are noted precisely, regardless of the drone of anti-aircraft missiles. Leaving the hideout behind the dyke, the camera circles the reality of war from place to place, in seemingly peaceful images. Conversations from coincidental meetings blow like sound fragments across the deserted landscapes of the Eifel, Mosel and Uckermark, from Bonn to Berlin. The birds as protagonists stay in the focus of the lens at all times. They sit in cannon barrels, on fences, flutter across meadows and fields, where war inscribed itself long ago. This is where it is contrived, this war: With words and images they aim at the minds and hearts of the people in war zones, collect and exploit scientific data, distribute kites with the lettering: “Adorn your life through freedom”.
It is not a militarisation which occured overnight. It took place slowly, in the shadow of the cold war, with the promise of secure jobs. What we need to grasp is that the critical stage has arrived. This war is not a theory anymore. Five cranes circle the sky, and the soldier takes stock of his deployment in Kabul: A second Vietman. I wanted to find my peace again. And I like the landscape here, the surroundings. For me it’s like a fortress, emotionally considered. You can also call it “golden cage”, I prefer “fortress”.
In between, the director and the Bundeswehr communicate via emails, memos, telephone calls. Concealed behind bureaucratic language lurks the fear of public resentments. A political apparatus exposes itself: It won’t be appreciated at all if we ask questions. And my experience is rather that it’s not good for our image if we show that we’re having such a discussion and asking questions.
And suddenly the perspective changes. A friend of the filmmaker is arrested on a village street in Brandenburg. The bird watchers themselves become the object of observation. There is no mass movement against this war, so every individual’s position becomes all the more important: Actually the moment is here everyday, there is no particular historical phase when it would be worth engaging in resistance, it does not exist. You have to create it yourself.
It ends with a slightly displaced view of the familiar: a military training zone at the Baltic sea situated between a bird sanctuary and a sailing marina. Missile-impacts lash the turquoise blue water; the birds above continue unswervingly onward.