Modern Goose ★★★ 1/2 TIFF 2023

Modern Goose ★★★ 1/2 TIFF 2023

Modern Goose wonderfully brings awareness to how we as a species take for granted animals’ need for nature in our ever-growing suburban landscapes. Karsten Wall’s short documentary is a compelling reminder that this planet isn’t just ours.

Able to navigate by reading the Earth’s magnetic field, fiercely loyal to flock and family, at home on land, air and water, geese straddle the territory between ancient instincts and the contemporary world.

As someone who lives in a suburban area where geese are known for wandering around streets as they return to the park they must reside in, I was ecstatic to see Karsten Wall’s Modern Goose. Like in Wall’s short documentary, I have seen how steady encroaches have limited where exactly the geese can live. Once where there were parks or grassland, now leisure centres are there. Yet, they keep adapting, even when it becomes far too dangerous a thing to do so.

Wall’s documentary shows how the geese have been living in Winnipeg. Undaunted by the busy road beside them, they claim a small patch of land and keep on doing their thing. He also documents the rather desolate state of suburbia. Areas are just grey and run down. Made and then forgotten about, all the while taking from creatures that actually needed the land. These moments really strike you. It is often easy to forget the damage we as a species have done to our lands; Wall shows us this as plainly as he can in Modern Goose.

While simultaneously showing us how the geese have adapted in the city, Wall also shows us how much damage we, as humans, have done to an animal’s habitat. The geese were clearly here long before those roads or car parks, yet we keep decreasing land where, for generations, they have resided. We expect the geese to move on, to see that those specific lands are not for them anymore. Then, in a scene that hits you hard, we witness the worst in humans as someone takes advantage of multiple plentiful nests, much to the horror of our feathered protagonists.

Modern Goose slowly pushes out the humans in its 22-minute runtime, allowing us to focus on the birds’ migration while still seeing the havoc we cause. Instead of the geese finding the food they need to survive, they rifle through dumped bags of food, trying to eat whatever they can. What stays with you, though, is how well Geese adapt. We see them find spaces to sleep or stay protected that you would never consider, how they protect their young, etc. As an urban documentary on animal life, it really is a fascinating piece.

With a striped back score, we are left with the sounds of the geese themselves, the diegetic sound around them, and the hums of cars as we observe them. Once we see the geese reach parkland, land that we usually relate to them, we relax a touch; they are as home as they can be for this time in their journey. A safe haven where their young can hide under their parent’s wings to stay dry and warm. Wall is never far away from giving us these more warming moments, while not being afraid to show us the harsher realities.

Hopefully, Modern Goose is that splash of cold water we need to become more aware of our surroundings. To see how we need nature a lot more than it needs us – a great observational documentary.

★★★ 1/2

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