The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

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Rating: G

Starring:
Mark Bittner as Himself
Judy Irving as Herself

Special Features:
Origins of the Flock

Urban Legends

Update: Mingus at the Oasis

Parrots Music Video

Mark Bittner’s Home Movies

Flock Updates

Deleted Scenes

Theatrical Trailer

California Quail Bonus Short

Other Info:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 83 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following text is from the DVD cover:

“An “engrossing, delightful film” (The Washington Post), The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is the bonafide sleeper theatrical hit of the year.

The film’s endearing guide is Mark Bittner, an aging bohemian, but the supporting cast members, a rambunctious flock of urban parrots, are the true stars, and their surprisingly humanlike behavior makes for a wondrous and rare experience. The film follows the ups-and-downs of these wild birds within the green niches of San Francisco as Bittner befriends, feeds, and names the members of the flock. Along the way, we meet many unforgettable characters: among them Connor, the grouchy yet lovable outcast of the flock, crying for a mate but luckless in his pursuits, and “the lovers,” Picasso and Sophie, inseparable until Sophie is forced into mourning when Picasso disappears. More than a mere birdwatcher, Bittner finds solace in his immersion with these strikingly beautiful creatures – but how will he cope when he’s evicted from his sanctuary and forced to live away from the parrots?

Packed with romance, comedy and a surprise ending that “makes you feel like you could fly out of the theater” (San Jose Mercury News), The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill shows just how wondrously similar the human and animal worlds really can be.”

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is rated G.

The Movie:
My kids and I sat down together to watch this documentary and we enjoyed it quite a bit. My 6 year old daughter was entranced by it any time the parrots were on the screen. Any time Mark Bittner started talking about himself, she became disinterested, but as soon as he started telling stories about the parrots, she was hooked again. As a matter of fact, we were hooked, too. It’s rare to find a documentary the whole family can enjoy, but this is one of them.

Despite a recent trip to San Francisco, I had never heard of these wild parrots before. The film does an excellent job of familiarizing you with their personalities. They go from random birds that all look alike to real characters. The stories of their experiences really grab your attention and stay with you. It will make you want to go to San Francisco and see them. The film also makes you take notice of the wildlife in your own backyard, too.

The humans in the film are also highlighted. It takes a unique kind of individual to devote their lives to birds and they are featured here. Mark Bittner comes across as a bit eccentric, but certainly a compassionate individual. Other people that also follow the birds and their lives are featured, too, but Bittner is the star.

My first question when I saw this movie was, “How do these tropical birds survive in the cold San Francisco climate?” It turns out they can handle cold just fine as long as they have constant supplies of food which they do in an urban environment. My next question was, “Where do they come from?” Nobody knows for sure, but they are believed to have come from escaped or released pets. In fact, there are wild parrot populations in other regions of the US, too.

I should also add that the film has a pretty good soundtrack by Chris Michie. It’s a mellow and upbeat sound that fits the subject matter well.

Overall, if you’re interested in wildlife at all, then this is a documentary well worth checking out. It’s funny, educational, and emotionally engaging.

The Extras:
There are a surprisingly large number of bonus features included on this DVD. The first one I went to was “Flock Updates,” which told how the birds were doing after the film was shot. It turns out they were doing remarkably well with their population doubling from over 80 to over 160. It’s enough to make you wonder if some of the conservationists were right about relocating the birds to their natural environment. A few of the main birds from the film are shown again, too.

Another follow-up is a featurette entitled “Update: Mingus at the Oasis”. This shows Mark Bittner visiting the parrot Mingus at the bird sanctuary in Arizona. He plays music for the bird and the parrot responds again by dancing.

Also included are some deleted scenes featuring more of the urban legends about the origins of the birds, more footage of the parrots, and a really interesting scene about another San Francisco resident who became obsessed about caring for the parrots. She actually started feeding them a few years before Mark Bittner and knew some of the ones he later named.

Rounding out the bonus features are a few short videos including one on the California Quail, a tribute to Connor, and Mark Bittner’s Home Movies. There’s even a Parrots Music Video that I found to be a little sappy. Overall, though, it’s a great selection of bonus features.

The Bottom Line:
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is a great documentary that both kids and adults will enjoy. If you enjoy wildlife documentaries, this is a unique one you’ll want to check out.

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