The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Vet nonfiction helmer Judy Irving's doc is a charming look at the mildly eccentric man who gained modest feature-page celebrity for his familiarity with San Francisco's tropical parrot flock. Appealing as both nature docu and character study, pic could prove a broadcast favorite, with an outside chance of limited theatrical play.

Vet nonfiction helmer Judy Irving’s “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” is a charming look at the mildly eccentric man who gained modest feature-page celebrity for his familiarity with San Francisco’s tropical parrot flock. Appealing as both nature docu and character study, pic could prove a broadcast favorite, with an outside chance of limited theatrical play.

Having moved to S.F. at the end of the hippie era to become a professional musician, Mark Bittner never realized that goal. He belatedly found an alternate raison d’etre feeding and studying the colorful parrots — originally abandoned or escaped pets who proved adaptable to this cooler climate — which often roosted on his doorstep in his North Beach neighborhood. Distinguishing all 40-odd birds by markings or behavior, he gave them each names, and ingratiated himself enough to allow hand-feeding. When the landlords who’ve allowed him to live rent-free decide to remodel their property, he must move on. This is no small crisis, since Bittner has never held a “real” job, nor does he have any contingency plans. Aviary insights nicely interweave with somewhat poignant human ones; color lensing is excellent, instrumental score a bit 70s-retro.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Production: A Pelican Media production. Produced, directed, edited by Judy Irving.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Irving; music, Chris Michie. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival, April 24, 2004. Running time: 83 MIN.

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