The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Judy Irving, dir. 2004. DVD.
Review: Quiet patience and an observant eye turn a seemingly unpromising subject into a rich and fascinating movie. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill captures the life of Mark Bittner, a gentle homeless musician who's befriended a flock of wild parrots in a neighborhood of San Francisco. Following Bittner, the camera zooms in on individual parrots, revealing their individual personalities and the traits of their species. This leads to Bittner's own life, the network of friendships that support him, and the ways in which the parrots—a non-native species—interact with both the natural ecosystem and the city government; just about every topic opens up another until a flock of colorful birds represents a microcosm of nature and society. Filmmaker Judy Irving has created an exemplary documentary simply by paying attention to the details of the world around her subject. Everything you expect from a Hollywood blockbuster—romance, violence, humor, sorrow, strong personalities in conflict—is here in spades, except that the heroes and heroines have bright red and green feathers. Utterly rewarding. —Bret Fetzer
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