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broodings from the burrow

August 30, 2006

parrots fly
posted by soe 11:56 pm

We rented The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill over the weekend and divided the show over the last two nights (due to life intervening not due to lack of interest).

The movie, filmed by fellow Conn alumna Judy Irving, focuses on Mark Bittman, a San Francisco man who champions a wild parrot tribe in the Telegraph Hill section of the city. Bittman is a sweet man who knew absolutely nothing about birds when he first noticed them and who grew to become an expert on the three types of parrots that comprised the flock. For the majority of the film he is essentially squatting in a cottage rent-free, feeding the birds with proceeds of odd jobs (and, eventually, a book).

I was prepared for the movie to be sweet; these sorts of movies never succeed if they don’t take a bleeding heart-approach to nature. I wasn’t prepared for how normal and humane Bittman seemed to be, how individual the birds were — or how heart-wrenching certain later scenes in the movie were.

Irving’s film is sensitive and moving and the colors of the film are over-saturated, calling to mind the bright plumage of the title birds. She does periodically pop into her movie, but in an unobtrusive way, and only in a way that answers questions you have — like why she made the film.

It wasn’t the best documentary I’ve seen this year, but it was one of the nicest I’ve seen in a long time. I’m proud to share an alma mater with Irving, who put together a pretty awesome film. I recommend the movie with the only caveats that you be prepared for a deeper story than you expect and to connect more with Bittman and the parrots than 90 minutes ought to allow.

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