Overland | Thursday, Sep. 30, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 2, 2 p.m   |  North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

Like many filmmakers, Elisabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue faced the frustration of seeing movie theaters shut down in 2020 right when their new movie was ready to premiere.

For the married Durham co-directors, the delays on Overland, their documentary on falconry, were especially painful given that the film’s expansive, award-winning visuals were made for the big screen.

“It’s a little heartbreaking to have made this film with such care and such ambition in terms of imagining how it would unfold for a communal audience on a large screen,” says James, an Emmy and Peabody-award-winning producer of such documentaries as The Loving Story and Althea. “The majority of people who have seen it thus far are doing so through these virtual film festivals—where, hopefully, they’re at least streaming it on their TV, but it could be they’re watching it on their phone. That’s not how this film is meant to be experienced.”

The filmmakers—who initially met while making a documentary about the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought to be extinct—will finally get a chance to let the Triangle see Overland as it was intended, in an epic outdoor premiere at the North Carolina Museum of Art on Thursday, September 30, with an additional family matinee screening on October 2, followed by related programming, including a birding session with a ranger on the museum grounds.

The premiere on September 30 also includes one of the film’s subjects, Lauren McGough, an anthropologist who trains injured eagles and delivers one of the film’s best lines: “Time collapses when you have an eagle on your fist.”

Overland, which took five years to film, covers the journeys of McGough, along with falconers Giovanni Granati and   Khalifa Bin Mujren, across seven countries on four continents over several years, showing how their stories parallel and occasionally overlap.

“We discovered on like, day two of shooting, that what we were interested in was less about the ins and outs of how to be a falconer and more about what it is psychologically and emotionally that brings this group of people—and as a result, the audience—into the wild,” says James.

The film explores not just the 6,000-year-old art of falconry, but the nature of the connection and obsession that falconers have with their birds, the connection between the birds and humanity, and of course, between man and nature.

All the while, these themes play out against visuals from the deserts of Dubai to the snow-covered mountains of Mongolia.

“We had no idea that the film would develop the way that it did when we started, that we would become so entranced by these three characters that are the core of the story, or that it would take us to so many interesting places,” James says. “It was a real joyful experience to be able to be with these people as their lives evolved, their relationships with their birds evolved, and their research evolved, and to travel alongside them.”

The film deliberately emphasizes shots and landscapes devoid of modern technology and structures, the better to help the audience get in touch with what La Noue calls “your inner wild.”

“I think that a lot of people right now, as they’re dealing with cell phones and video games and traffic and all those things that kind of compress our sense of wild, will find [that] this film will help channel that feeling of freedom, of being wild,” says La Noue.

“And of course, the birds of prey themselves are so magical. And we always see them in the sky or the trees, and you just watch every move, and you just feel privileged to see a bird in the wild. To have these wild birds inches from our camera and the falconers able to bring these wild birds in front of our camera and for us to be able to design shots and make great cinematography with these birds is like a bridge to that wild that I don’t think anybody else has made in a movie yet.”

While plans to bring Overland to theaters remain in flux as movie theaters themselves remain influx, James and La Noue say they’re just happy for the Art Museum screening, where their film can be seen as it was meant to be.

“Our executive producers, the musicians who play live on the score, so many people involved with the film are from the area,” James says. “To be able to bring Overland back home and show it, not only to them but to their families and then to our friends, and then to the general public—it’s really exciting for us.”

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