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90 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Parrot Footage for Bird Lovers. A Vivid Companion to Mark Bittner's Book., January 3, 2006
This review is from: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (DVD)
"The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" bears the same title as the 2004 book by Mark Bittner, the bohemian resident of San Francisco's Telegraph Hill who chronicled his experiences with a flock of cherry-headed conures whom he befriended and cared for. This film by Judy Irving begins later in Bittner's relationship with the birds and ends sooner than the book, which covers more time and goes into more depth in describing the individual birds' personalities. You don't need to have read the book to understand the film, though. Anyone who loves parrots will enjoy seeing the characters among San Francisco's wild flock. But I think the book does increase the audience's appreciation of the flock and Bittner's role in helping them along. If you have read the book, it is extraordinary to see the birds in action in this film, which includes a lot of colorful footage of these playful, vivacious parrots.

As the film starts, the flock numbers about 45 birds, cherry-headed conures plus one blue-crowned conure, Conner, and an occasional budgie. It ends around the time Mark Bittner moved away from Telegraph Hill due to renovations. In addition to observing the flock, we hear Bittner recount his life in San Francisco as a bohemian drifter in search of direction, which he finally found in the unlikely form of a flock of displaced parrots. Bittner does most of the talking about the parrots, through interviews and voice-over narration. There are also interviews with his Telegraph Hill neighbors, the curator of birds at San Francisco's Lorikeet Aviary, John Aiken, and a host of people speculating on the flock's origins. By the film's end, the flock included a mitred conure and hybrid offspring, and it's unclear to me how many birds it numbered. But the flock included around 160 birds by the time this DVD was finished.

It's incredible to see these birds living and thriving in an urban environment, feeding on fellow non-natives: the subtropical plants imported for landscaping. Judy Irving has captured some of the most engaging footage of parrots that I've ever seen on film. And this film adds some value to Mark Bittner's book beyond visuals: Bittner comes across as less reclusive and eccentric than he did in his book. And I got a much stronger sense of Conner's plight, as the flock's regal, thoughtful outsider, from the film than I did from the book, which I really appreciated. "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" is a vivid account of some very out-of-place parrots who have made a place for themselves in an urban jungle filled with humans and other oddities. A great film for bird-lovers -and take a look at the book too, if you can.

The DVD (New Video Group 2005): This DVD is loaded with extras as long as the film itself, and you won't want to miss them if you're interested in the origins of the flock, updates on the flock, or just want to see more parrot pictures. There is a "Flock Update" (7 min), containing info on the birds and Mark's move back to Telegraph Hill, which I believe is in the book but not the movie. There are 7 deleted scenes (25 min) available, including a long sequence, "Flock Origins" (14 min), on the early days of the flock, in which Laurel Wroten recounts her observations of how 2 apparently escaped cherry-headed conures became 7 and then were joined by Conner and his blue-crowned mate. This ends a lot of speculation about how the flock began. There are 4 short films (51 min) about Conner, Mingus' life at the Oasis Sanctuary, and "Mark's Home Movies", which include a lot of footage of birds discussed in the book. There is a Music Video (4 min) of a song about Dojen, Conner, and Tupelo, recorded by Roberta Fabiano. Also: a theatrical trailer (2 min), "Filmmaker Bio" (text), "About the Book" (text), including how to order a signed copy, "About the Soundtrack" (how to order), "About Pelican Media" (where to get t-shirts and other movie paraphernalia), and DVD credits. No subtitles.
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Location: McLean, VA USA

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