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With: Mark Bittner
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Judy Irving
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 83
Date: 10/09/2003

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Judy Irving's The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill may not be the deepest documentary in the world; it doesn't look at politics or the holocaust or trouble spots. But the story it tells is unique and moving, especially for its perfect snapshot of a specific city's aura. The movie begins with the tale of Mark Bittner, a self-appointed "dharma bum" who lives in San Francisco with no job and no prospects (he once wanted to be a rock star). While taking care of a house in the ritzy Telegraph Hill area, Bittner becomes involved with a flock of wild parrots; all abandoned or escaped pets. He feeds them, distinguishes them from one another by markings or personality traits, and gives them names (like Mingus, Pushkin, Picasso and Sophie). Before long, the parrots' have their own story, which is just as fascinating as Bittner's. Each story takes its own dramatic turn, and Irving balances them with the grace of a fiction storyteller. Even this simple, seemingly minor story grows glorious by the time it ends.

DVD Details: Docurama has released a 2008 super-deluxe, two-disc DVD edition of this much-loved film. It includes "100" minutes of new footage, including updates on the birds, Bittner and Irving, a music video, and two new short films by Irving.

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