Judy Irving ("The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill") follows a wayward California pelican from her "arrest" on the Golden Gate Bridge into care at a rehab facility and explores nesting ... See full summary »
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century".
Jean François Heckel,
In San Francisco, there are at least two flocks of largely wild parrots who flock around the city. This film focuses on the flock of cherry-headed conures (and a lonely blue-headed one named Connor) who flock around the Telegraph Hill region of the city and their closest human companion, Mark Bittner . Through his own words, we learn of his life as a frustrated, homeless musician and how he came to live in the area where he decided to explore the nature around him. That lead him to discovering the parrot flock and the individual personalities of it. In a cinematic portrait, we are introduced to his colorful companions and the relationship they share as well as the realities of urban wild life that would change Bittner's life forever.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This documentary, produced, directed and edited by Judy Irving, focuses on an erstwhile homeless man named Mark Bittner. His life in and of itself is not that interesting and not the centerpiece of the film. It is what Mark Bittner has chosen to do with a few years of his life that is what makes The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill compelling. As the title implies, he takes care of a fairly large flock of wild parrots that congregate on, yes, Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.
It's a very simple story really. Mark, by his own admission, never really pursued any kind of career, although he once aspired to be a rock star. He lived in basements and cellars and on the street. Eventually, he began to feed and become involved with the parrots. Conveniently, he found a small home on the hill that he could squat in. The owners of the home, interviewed in the film, state that it would've seemed wrong to not let him continue to stay. Unfortunately, he must leave. The owners have decided to remodel.
The first half of the film focuses on Mark's relationship with the Parrots and how he came to be their caretakers. He has a name for each one and gives the audience stories of how he's interacted with them. Included in these reminiscences, is general background information on bird life in San Francisco and the various theories on how these South American parrots came to exist in the Bay Area.
The second half of Parrots deals with the fate of the birds now that Mark has to vacate his small home for the last three years. Apparently, his care of the birds has attracted world wide attention, especially in Europe. There is never really any tension in the fate of Mark or the parrots since, as Mark points out, the birds are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. The viewer probably has a little less confidence in Mark though, as he says he has no idea what he will do.
What works so well in this film is Judy Irving's deft editing. We are constantly treated to the beauty and charm of the parrots themselves but not so much as to make it tedious. Irving seemed to sense just when to spend time on the people and less "bird time." I did find her own voice-overs asking Mark questions to be a little intrusive at times and she even introduces herself as the filmmaker in the beginning. There does seem to be a reason for this, however, at the end of the film. I think most of the audience will be charmed. I was.
My other choices at the theater, when I chose to see Irving's documentary, was a film about the last days of the Third Reich, children growing up in brothels, and an impoverished boy making a living in an underground fighting ring.
I think I made the right choice.
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was refreshing.
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