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Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos

. "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill"

The affection that documentarian Judy Irving feels for a wild flock of parrots and for Mark Bittner, the man who dedicates his time and understanding to its feeding and care, is apparent in her film. So much so, that even when the essential story is told in colorful and fascinating detail, she goes on with filler and repetition until it achieves feature length. By then, the subject, unique as it is, is quite exhausted. But, that's what's given it a crack at festival recognition and a commercial release.

Commercially, arthouse patrons will surely enjoy the film's telling of man intersecting with nature -- one who is dedicated to the care and feeding of red and blue topped parrots native to South America who have formed a flock and have been partially living off Bittner's seed-filled palms. He has formed a bond of attachment to his opportunistic avian following and enjoys recounting his experiences and aims.

He tells of his general failure at the string of careers he's pursued: writer, poet, singer, songwriter, street musician. Finding plenty of time on his hands due to lack of success and, perhaps, some limitation of talent and discipline, the wild birds came to his attention during a housecleaning gig on Russian Hill. His interest developed into an outlet and a temporary career as a naturalist without science portfolio.

Nature-loving, pet hugger patrons will lovingly sit through every detail of his singular relationship to birds, those he's kept as house pets, the injured ones he's brought in only for temporary care, and the 45 or so wild ones he's named and identifies by unique markings and personalities. He claims to know every one as individuals.

Besides much actual footage of his feeding forays, sometimes drawing a crowd of questioners, filmmaker Irving widens the study with interviews of everyone involved, like the well-off couple who have been bird-feeder Bittner's enablers by allowing him to live in their bungalow on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco rent free, and allowing him the time to write articles about the flock and write a book, " The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story... with Wings."

The audience that will thrill to the subject may well be upset at real estate reality which eventually brings such good things to an end -- but not before the formation and opportunistic survival of a wild flock far from their natural habitat can be explored and appreciated.

Bird lovers should lobby for this in a double feature with Jacques Perrin's "Winged Migration," an exquisite bird adventure of larger geographical scope and visual inspiration.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Mark Bittner and his wild feeders


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