Kino Lorber releasing THE MESSENGER theatrically in the USA

Kino Lorber Acquires all U.S. Rights to The Messenger; Winner of Best Conservation Program at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and an Audience Favorite at Hot Docs

Sets U.S. Theatrical Release for Friday, December 4, 2015

Su Rynard’s environmental documentary reveals the demise of the world’s songbird population; leaves audiences with a profound appreciation for the billions of birds with whom we share our communities and planet

“Never loses sight of the winged tunesters’ sheer beauty, or their emotional and symbolic pull as perceived intermediaries between the earthly and spiritual.”              The Hollywood Reporter

NEW YORK, NY – Tuesday, October 13, 2015 – Kino Lorber has acquired all U.S. rights to THE MESSENGER, a new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Su Rynard ( Kardia, Dream Machine)  The film chronicles the struggle of songbirds worldwide to survive in turbulent environmental conditions brought about by humans and argues that their demise will signify the crash of the global ecosystem, akin to the disappearance of honey bees and the melting of the glaciers. Beautiful slow motion photography illustrates the power and beauty of these delicate winged creatures that have been praised and eulogized across cultures and throughout time.

THE MESSENGER, which was produced by SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. and Films à Cinq/ARTE, was acquired at the Hot Docs International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere and was named one of the festival’s top 3 audience favorites. Last week it won the coveted prize for Best Conservation Program at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and today it won honorable mention at Cinema Ambiente Environmental Film Festival in Italy. This past weekend it had its U.S. West Coast Premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in association with the San Francisco Green Film Festival.

The film will open in New York at Cinema Village on December 4, 2015 and Los Angeles at Laemmle Monicas on December 11, 2015, followed by a release in over 30 markets nationwide, and with a subsequent DVD and digital release next year. The film will be released on Kino Lorber’s Alive Mind Cinema label.


The deal was negotiated by Elizabeth Sheldon, Senior Vice President, on behalf of Kino Lorber, with the team at SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. “The Messenger made an indelible imprint upon me. While movies about the demise of the bees are ubiquitous, I thought that the birds needed to be championed too,” quipped Ms. Sheldon. Su Rynard comments, “Kino Lorber has done a masterful job bringing films about urgent issues to the public and we are excited to have this opportunity to work closely with this experienced team.”

For thousands of years, songbirds were regarded by mankind as messengers from the gods. Today, these creatures – woven inextricably into the fabric of our environment – are vanishing at an alarming rate. Under threat from climate change, pesticides and more, populations of hundreds of species have dipped dramatically. As scientists, activists and bird enthusiasts investigate this phenomenon, amazing secrets of the bird world come to light for the first time in this acclaimed and visually thrilling documentary. Find out what’s killing our songbirds, and what can be done about it. As in ancient times, songbirds may once again be carrying a message to humans – one that we ignore at our own peril.

For other confirmed US dates and locations,   click here. 

About Alive Mind Cinema:

Specializing in documentaries in the areas of enlightened consciousness, secular spirituality and culture, Alive Mind Cinema seeks to provide audiences with intellectually provocative films that deliver the “aha” response of a transformative experience. Learn more at

About Kino Lorber: 

With a library of 1,000 titles, Kino Lorber Inc. has been a leader in independent art house distribution for over 30 years, releasing over 25 films per year theatrically under its Kino Lorber, Kino Classics, and Alive Mind Cinema banners, including five Academy Award® nominated films in the last seven years. In addition, the company brings over 70 titles each year to the home entertainment market with DVD and Blu-ray releases under its five house brands, distributes a growing number of third party labels, and is a direct digital distributor to all major platforms including iTunes, Netflix, HULU, Amazon, Vimeo, Fandor and others.


Adam J. Segal
The 2050 Group – Publicity
(202) 422-4673 – Cell
(646) 202-1612 – New York Office


On October 1, in Jackson, Wyoming, THE MESSENGER  was honored with a Best Conservation Program Award at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festivals’ Grand Teton Awards Gala.  The Best Conservation Program Award is “Awarded to the program that most effectively contributes to an awareness of timely and relevant conservation issues and/or solutions.”  Finalists included Racing Extinction, and I Bought A Rainforest.

JH Awards. ws. theatre.21710014898_af6d847641_z

THE MESSENGER is an artful investigation into the causes of songbird mass depletion and the compassionate people who are working to turn the tide, directed  by award-winning filmmaker Su Rynard.  The 90 minute film takes viewers on a visually stunning journey revealing how the issues facing birds also pose daunting implications for our planet and ourselves.

Producers Martin de la Fouchardiere and Diane Woods were at the ceremony to accept the award.

JH awards.2 shot.DW.MdelaF. better.21900115865_f8fd508f12_zDirected by: Su Rynard

Producers:  Joanne P. Jackson, Sally Blake, Martin de la Fouchardiere, Su Rynard and Diane Woods

Written by: Su Rynard and Sally Blake

Directors of Photography:  Daniel Grant and Amar Arhab

Picture Editor:  Eamonn O’Connor

Sound Design and Composer: Phil Strong

Additional Editing:  Sally Blake and Carole Larson

Additional photography:  Laurent Charbonnier, Christopher Romeike

and Joshua See

Sound Re-Engineering Mixer:   Daniel Pellerin

Line Producer: Diane Warme

Post Production was done at Urban Post in Toronto.


THE MESSENGER is an international treaty co-production between Canada and France, produced by SongbirdSOS Productions and Films à Cinq/ARTE.

US Distribution – Kino Lorber

International Sales Agent ZED


Jackson Hole press release here

About Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival:  Recognized as the premier event of its genre, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival is an unparalleled biennial industry gathering. Hosted biennially in Grand Teton National Park, over 650 international delegates participate in an exceptional slate of leading edge equipment presentations, seminars and state-of-the-art screenings.

The Festival’s international board members include: Animal Planet, BBC Natural History Unit, Discovery Channel, Disneynature, FujiFilm Optical Devices, Gorongosa Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Tangled Bank Studios, National Geographic Channel International, National Geographic WILD, National Geographic Society, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, Nature/WNET, Off the Fence Productions, PBS, Sony Electronics, Terra Mater Factual Studios and UNIVERSUM/ORF, Vulcan Productions, WGBH, and World Wildlife Fund.

THE MESSENGER is currently screening at Film Festivals worldwide.

More info at

Mountains, Fjords & Films

Bergen Film Festival

On Norway’s southwestern coast surrounded by mountains and fjords, is the 1000 year old city of Bergen. It’s a great mix of old and modern, brightly coloured historic wooden homes on cobble stone streets are steps away contemporary architecture and state of the art cinema’s. A renovated, full of character, waterfront sardine factory was one of the venue’s by the BIFF festival.

Old Bergen

approaching Bergen


The Messenger was part of a program called KLIMAFESTIVALEN, a group of 8 films that all, in different ways, touched on the theme of Climate Change. In addition to two very successful public screenings, The Messenger was part of the School Program and a Master Class at the University.


Hakon Tveit at Bergen Film Festival in Norway

Hakon Tveit at Bergen Film Festival in Norway


BIFF also offers a robust School Program. Masterminded by Hakon Tveit they grouped three films; The Messenger, License to Krill and Racing Extinction and showed them in one day to a group of 500 high school kids. How amazing is that! I found myself wishing I was 17 again.

Some of these enthusiastic students also run the film magazine Kinosyndromet and Utenriksmagasinet MIR with Bergen Student Radio broadcast on Chagall 2100. They invited me to discuss The Messenger. I confess was expecting a typical Canadian college radio station in a basement with some basic equipment and all night music. Not so, the show was hosted live in front of an audience by two enterprising young women, in a technically sophisticated and crowded social venue.  You can download the podcast here – originally broadcast – Tuesday Sept 29, 2015




The University of Bergen hosted a Masterclass in science communication titled “Get the Message Out”. The intent was to create a dialogue between the filmmakers, broadcasters and scientists with the goal of improving our ability to communicate science to a broader audience.

The kick-ass panelists were Thomas Wallner, Director of POLAR SEA 360. Me, Director of THE MESSENGER. Carina Bordewich, Acquisition Executive, NRK. Kaare Hersoug, Head of Development at Teddy TVand Øystein Jansen, Assistant Professor at the University Museum of Bergen – all of whom shared thier diverse, innovative and creative approaches.

On another level the topic felt especially important to me as a Canadian, as in recent years our scientists have been muzzled by the current government. For more on this listen to the great CBC podcast series Science Under Siege.

Thomas Wallner & Su Rynard

Thomas Wallner & Su Rynard

Get the Message Out

Get the Message Out


On another note entirely, I highly recommend a film I was fortunate to see at BIFF called Poached.

Directed by Timothy Wheeler, Poached reveals the bizarre underworld of illegal bird egg collecting. The film follows convicted egg offenders as they evade an army of bird lovers and wildlife crime police during “Operation Easter” in Britain. As the most notorious eggers begin to realize the destructiveness of their behavior, we wonder whether they ever can be redeemed and harnessed for good.

The festival has a wonderful hard working & talented team that made my brief visit a worth while experience.

Thanks to BirdLife Norway for helping to spread the word.

BIFF Norway - audience settles in



A Different Tomorrow


Reykjavik International Film festival

This year, RIFF could have been called the festival of amazing women in film. Margarethe Von Trotta was the special guest, and her Q & A was moderated by the former (female) prime minister of Iceland – Vigdis Finnbogadottir.   When I stepped onto the stage for The Messenger Q&A one of the many faces in the audience was that of Bjork. She was not a special guest of the festival, and did not receive any kind of VIP invite to the screening. She selected her films and simply bought her tickets on-line, just like any other Icelander.


In addition to the impressive audience and moderators, there were many great films with female directors including, Amber Fares wonderful film Speed Sisters, about a team of women street racers in Palestine and Paris based Leila Bouzid beautiful and powerful film, As I Open My Eyes, a coming of age story of a young girl pushing boundaries testing the limits in Tunisia.


Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.01.26 PM

I confess there was little time for anything other than the busy-ness of the film festival, however when walking through town many birds were present. Near city hall the Tjornin Pond is home to the Whooper swan, Graylag goose and the Lesser black-backed gull. But beyond Reykjavik ponds, Iceland’s seabird colonies are vanishing. Our high-carbon lifestyle is turning up the oceans’ thermostat, and seabirds are feeling the heat. The leading reasons behind this are the array of profound changes under way in the world’s oceans—their climate, their chemistry, their food webs, their loads of pollutants.

A Different Tomorrow

Snsolaug Ludvikskottir

The task of change can sometimes feel overwhelming. Yet when at a festival like this I am inspired by other films that creatively and beautifully address many of the concerns we are facing today. RIFF featured a program called A Different Tomorrow – These films shed light on environmental and humanitarian topics because, sometimes the right film can change the world. If any of these films come your way, please watch! Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World, How to Change the World, Planetary, and Last of the Elephant Men.


The Messenger screening prompted the comment “I didn’t know this was happening” and question “What can I do?” Both of these statements I can very much identify with. Before making this film, I was in the “I didn’t know” category. As changes in bird populations from year to year can be barely perceptible, but over time, they snowball to create the shocking statistics that face us today. There is no one cause, no “smoking” gun for songbird declines, so how do we combat these multiple threats around the globe? A simple start is to – get outside, go for a walk, and listen. Then visit Every bit helps.






France Activist Andrea Rutigliano

Les Landes and the Ortolan

This fall, the illegal hunting of birds is much in the news and I am reminded of a September, two years ago when we filmed our story about the trapping of the Ortolan bunting in Les Landes, France.

The Ortolan Bunting is a beautiful little songbird that used to be common but has declined in the last 30 or 40 years. Each fall the Ortolan migrate from all over Europe to their wintering grounds in Africa. The Ortolan are largely grain eaters, and they spend the summer working on building up their fat reserves so they can survive this long migration. It is their diet and their fat that makes them particularly appealing to humans, as they are delicious to eat, and in France there is a long-standing tradition of doing just that.

Napoleon granted the right to hunt and trap small birds to the peasants. The large game was reserved for the noblemen. To this day this tradition continues. Les Landes is an important stop over site for the migrating Ortolan. It is also a battleground between Hunters who continue to trap (and eat) the bird and activists who wish to put an end to this practice. Trapping of the Ortolan bunting was banned in 1999, yet despite the fact the hunt is illegal the French authorities turn a blind eye. The stakes are high.

Ortolan in cage

To tell this story we filmed with the hunters and with the activists who touch down each year, at the same time as the migrating Ortolan. Their mission is to protect the birds. The activist groups unofficial leader was Andrea Rutigliano, an Investigations Officer. With CABS, Committee Against Bird Slaughter, Andrea, an Italian anthropologist has been doing this kind of work all over Europe for almost 20 years. He speaks five different languages, loves birds, knows his politics and his science. Science is key in this battle as local hunters defend their right to trap, believing that the hunt is sustainable and the numbers affected by trapping are pale in comparison to other problems the birds face. That said, in France the nesting population of Ortolan is in danger of extinction.

Ortolan investigation

As a recent article in The Guardian states 25 million birds are illegally killed each year in the Mediterranean, and nearly half the killings occur in EU states where the hunting of songbirds is banned and there is a massive failure of governments and the authorities to act. In the Messenger, Andrea tells us “You cannot defend a tradition that is not sustainable anymore… a tradition is not something that must be kept alive at any cost.”

Wise words. You can see the entire scene in The Messenger.

Ortolan Gendarmerie


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