Cagarros Assembly

Ellie Ga

United States

Genre : Documentary
Length : 65’

Project status : Development
Budget : 125 000 €
Acquired budget : 90 000 €
Funds : United States, Portugal, Sweden
Shooting countries : Portugal

First Feature Film

For several months each year, the haunting sounds of cagarros (calonectris borealis) envelop the coasts of the Azores. For several weeks each year, thousands of fledglings fall from the sky, crashing into street lights. Blind and vulnerable to lights at the beginning of life, survivors spend a long life at sea, with a noisy return once a year to find the same nest and mate. The bird’s life cycle is the basis for a film exploring the effects of light pollution, disorientation, bird navigation, and the mysteries of intergenerational memory. Marine biologists monitor nests on cliffs, neuroscientists create bird vision experiments, and geographers map the emission of light. After nightfall, volunteers search for fallen birds and listening sessions are created with the visually impaired community. Cagarros Assembly explores the connections between birds and people, sound and light, politics and lighting, empathy and indifference.

Note of intention

I look to natural phenomena, like oceanic gyres, as a way to think about narrative. The world of my film Gyres includes knowledge gleaned through ocean debris and rituals on Greek islands, drifting alongside refugee migration and meditations on personal loss through objects left behind. Quarries tells fragmented stories about the relationship between stone and hand: from the earliest stone tools, to stone as a source of punishment, propaganda, or agency. Cagarros Assembly begins as a fascination with the seabird’s lifecycle. Cagarro chicks are born visually impaired; hundreds crash into artificial lights on the way to a life at sea; and survivors return to land only briefly once a year. The bird is also famous for its eerie vocalizations, a recognizable sound for many inhabitants. Yet this sound often goes ignored, since the birds are rarely seen. A small number of volunteers and scientists connect the bird to the politics of public lighting, the dominance of vision in society, and to the rescue of animals as a way to find meaning.

“To the process of rescue,” writes Walter Benjamin, “belongs the firm, seemingly brutal grasp.” The filmmaker engages in a kind of rescue work, salvaging and arranging fragments. But salvaging requires a grasp that is decisive, and not without violence. The same is true of animal rescue. What does this firm seemingly brutal grasp tell us about the birds, about ourselves, and about the need for rescue?


Ellie Ga


Quarries / 2022 / 42′
Gyres / 2019 / 40′
Strophe, A Turning / 2017 / 37′
Four Thousand Blocks / 2014 / 23′

Irati Gorostidi Agirretxe

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