Matt Hamilton–writer-director of “Raptors: A Fistful of Daggers”

by | Apr 10, 2024

Matt Hamilton–writer-director of “Raptors: A Fistful of Daggers,” an unusual two-part edition of the PBS series, “Nature,” which premiered April 10, while the second episode debuts on April 17—recalls the impetus for creating this double-shot of cinematic raptor mania. Part of his explanation involved not having seen a documentary that delved deeply into the realm of raptors. Let’s just say that, with “Raptors: A Fistful of Daggers,” Hamilton definitely filled that void. Noting that one theme that emerges from these two films is that– owing to harsh habitats and/or dangerous prey–raptors face enormous day-to-day challenges, I ask Hamilton about parallel challenges he may have faced as a filmmaker seeking to capture footage of these birds in action. His response amounted to an emphatic Yes, citing circumstances ranging from areas where the temperatures dangled at 40-50 degrees below zero, while another location was beset with a cyclone, relentless rain, then Hamilton recounted, that same place was hit by an earthquake. But, he noted cheerfully, such are the vagaries of natural history filmmaking, where you often need to “put a smile on your face” and forge ahead. We engaged in a philosophical discussion about how the work of natural history filmmakers may be shaped by the general feelings about a species they’re profiling—meaning, how a decidedly charismatic animal, like a lion or elephant, may be handled or depicted onscreen differently than, say, raptors, which are decidedly not charismatic. Hamilton explains how he selected the birds featured, among the some 500 species of raptors. As part of this, we also discussed some of raptors that constitute the film’s second installment, subtitled “Extreme Lives,” including The Florida Snail Kite, whose story involves a tale of adaptation and evolution worthy of a sci-fi anthology. Deliberated, too, were the Honey Buzzards (whose predatory practices align more with a horror flick), and the Secretary Bird. [Photos by Matt Hamilton]  (,,

COMEDY CORNER: Matt Braunger’s  “Owls”  (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  George Harrison’s “Dark Horse”


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