Passenger Pigeons

Martha Stephens, USA 2010, 107’

A young coal miner dies in a small town in eastern Kentucky, which begins the four-story plot of Passenger Pigeons, set in the Appalachian hinterland. All the events take place over one weekend, when the miner’s death disrupts the town’s sleepy atmosphere, and characters’ various ways of dealing with the loss compose into an image of a community isolated from the world and barely able to recall the prosperity of yore.

Martha Stephens’ film develops slowly over 90 minutes. The director takes time to saturate the plot with fatalism and all encompassing resignation, all built on poignant cinematography by the young Gregg Hudgins. The film does not lionize backwater America or try to extrude emotional reactions with scenes of poverty, offering instead numerous thoughtful observations and psychological realism. Passenger Pigeons may be read as a portrait of a community forgotten by capitalism. The town Stephens shows is a zombie: exploited, off the trail of global influence and investments, but still alive. In the town’s soft and gently foggy light, the industrial age is drawing to an end, taking with it a certain kind of social ties.

Samuel Nowak

Martha Stephens

Born and raised in Kentucky. Graduated from the Film Department at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where she made several short films. Passenger Pigeons, produced for $8 000, is her feature-length debut.

Selected filmography

2008 Ant Hills (kr. m. / short)

2010 Gołębie pocztowe / Passenger Pigeons

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Cast & Crew

director Martha Stephens
screenplay Martha Stephens
cinematography Greg Hudgins
editing Joe Chang
music Andrew Lafrate
cast Kentucker Audley, Brendan McFadden, Bryan Marshall, Caroline White, Martha Stephens, Earl Lynn Nelson, Karrie Crouse, Will Casse, Jim Johnstone
producer Joe Chang
production Papercookie
sales Martha Stephens
language English
coloration colour
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