“Dead Birds” is a cinematographic interpretation of the life of Dani in West New Guinea. This film focuses on Weyak, farmer and warrior, and on Pua, the young swineherd, following them through the events of Dani life: sweet potato horticulture, pig keeping, battles, raids, and ceremonies. The title has a meaning that is both immediate and allegorical. In the Dani language the words refer to the weapons and ornaments recovered in battle. Their other, more poetic meaning comes from the Dani belief that people, because they are like birds, must die. “Dead Birds” is an attempt to film a people from within and to see, when the chosen fragments were assembled, if they could speak not only about the Dani, but also about ourselves.
Robert Gardner was the director of the Film Study Center at Harvard University from 1957 to 1997. He is one of the most internationally renowned filmmakers and authors whose works have entered the permanent canon of non-fiction filmmaking. Some of his most prominent films are: “The Hunters” (1957), “Dead Birds” (1963), “Rivers of Sand” (1974) and “Forest of Bliss” (1985).