on “Life and Death in Paradise: After The Flood” (an IWFF review)
Sometimes we move to a tropical place and get stuck there, either by a global pandemic or by the collapse of the land bridge between present-day Venezuela and the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Those are the most common options, I am sure, though I’ve also been avoiding most news lately.
What I am less sure about is survival. Nothing is certain in paradise, as seen through the gorgeous photography and compelling vignettes of After the Flood. This film offers audiences in our existentially complicated times a vacation into a world where death is just as certain as whatever plebeian trash you would worry about in a barren grocery store. On this vacation, you can be an oilbird.
Oilbirds are cute, nocturnal avians dwelling in caves like bats. They navigate through echolocation whiskers. As an oilbird, your long whiskers could mirror the horror of the world back to you solely through a luxury we can no longer afford: touch. Oilbirds live in nests of their own shit. They have no need for toilet paper. They get their name from how fatty their chicks are. In simpler times, people would spit the chicks on sticks and light them up for torches. Those babies would burn forever.
Oh yes, this film is full of that special brand of violence only found in the wild, so you can rule out showing this doc to your children. Be prepared for tears and long conversations about how many leatherback turtle young actually do survive the beach massacres they are born into. Your children will probably not believe your soothing logic. The special night-time cameras used to film the carnage catch every small, flailing flipper in high definition.
Trinidad and Tobago is a beautiful and cruel place. Perhaps that is what makes the islands perfect for our planet’s most ruthless non-simian inhabitants, birds. In my time in paradise, I can tell you two things about birds: they fuck, but they don’t give a fuck. Enter the Bird Party at the end of our hot, coughing, flooding world. Eat of the sweet palm fruit as they do, lay your eggs, and shit all over your neighbor species trying to survive after being cut off from mainland South America — sheltering in place for hundreds of years. It’s been thousands in the case of further Tobago, and this party is still going. Bird Party won’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger in paradise.