It is a rare film that instantly makes viewers want to book a plane and fly halfway around the world to join the cause. Emptying the Skies is that film. It’s an exploration of the secret massacre of songbirds in southern Europe.
The tiny birds, landing after a grueling sea journey, have the misfortune to be considered regional delicacies, and although trapping these migratory animals is illegal, a black market flourishes with little government intrusion. Using nets, snap traps that shatter birds’ legs, crude traps that crush their spines, and sticks covered with glue that hold the exhausted birds fast, poachers snare and then slaughter songbirds by the millions every year. Poaching is a lucrative enterprise, and greedy poachers have sent songbird populations into rapid decline, with some species facing imminent extinction.
Opening with an interview with New Yorker writer Jonathan Franzen, Emptying the Skies follows a fearless group of activists who risk beatings, gunfire, and death to free snared birds and destroy the poachers’ traps. Their goal is simple: to save as many birds’ lives as possible.
Emptying the Skies premieres this Earth Day, April 22, at Cinema Village in New York and at Music Box Theatre in Chicago. It will also be available the same day on iTunes. PETA campaigner John Di Leonardo will moderate the film’s New York event; tickets are on sale here.