The passage of ducks is a recurring image in the history of cinema. Suffice it to mention such canonical films like The Circus (Charles Chaplin, 1928), Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978), Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974), Black Cat, White Cat (Emir Kusturica, 1998), Five (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003), etc., all of which have a shot where a group of ducks cross the scene. Basque short film maker Koldo Almandoz uncovers this mystery in his ingenious work Duck Crossing.
Koldo Almadoz`s short film Duck Crossing is a fake documentary, a subgenre that became very popular through This is Spinal Tap65 (Rob Reiner, 1984), and which was inspired to a great degree by the first films of Peter Watkins. Almandoz uses the mockumentary genre to show his fine irony in Duck Crossing, and uses many false documentary elements like irony, intrigue, false characters, and the use of archived material. In this work, he reflects about the curiously recurring shot that he calls the passage of ducks. The narrator`s voice over tells us about the significant role that ducks have played in the history of cinema, which lends the story a certain verisimilitude. The illustrating images, a group of black and white photographs of important films seem to verify his words.
A little later, we hear the testimonies of some of the directors who made these films, such as Michael Winterbottom, Emir Kusturica, David Fincher, Roman Polanski or Abbas Kiarostami. All of them praise the quality of the ducks as actors. Besides, the film unites the opinions of Tomás Sarasola, manager of the leading role duck, and the veterinary surgeon Jone Landaribar. Finally, the narrator recovers the thread of the plot to praise the acting talent of the ducks, and the technique of the passage of ducks.
Nevertheless, not everything is false in Duck Crossing. Although the approach and the development of the mockumentary may be absurd, its premise is very real. It is absolutely true that since the most remote beginnings of cinema until today, film directors all over the world have included in their movies a shot where a group of ducks emerges in the scene. The enormous work of research that the director has done—which is the most outstanding and amazing part of the short film—attests to that. It is this unquestionable reality, precisely, which incites the curiosity of the viewer, and captures them in the plot of the director. Once again, suspense defines the short film. But, just as with the most captivating mysteries, in this one there is no answer either. It doesn`t matter. Because what mattered was the road travelled. Almandoz summarizes it perfectly with the last phrases of the voice over of the narrator:
“The absence of a logical explanation disturbs us. But it is, in the end, part of the magic of cinema, which continues to hypnotize us with these small details.”
Almandoz said this about how he first thought about making this short film:
I was watching A very long engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2004) in the movie theater. I watched the scene where the postman comes, and some ducks cross the screen. I thought that I had just seen the same recently in Así en el cielo como en la tierra by José Luis Cuerda (1995). Then, I came to the conclusion that the world is full of the passage of ducks. In fact, the scene where a group of ducks cross the screen appears in many films. That`s how the idea came. Nevertheless, it took me time to figure out what I would do with this discovery.
Duck Crossing (2009) is part of Kimuak, the Basque Government’s program for the distribution and promotion of Basque short films worldwide. Koldo Almandoz is a short film maker based Donostia-San Sebastian, whose short films have gained national, state level and international acclaim.