The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill


Directed by: Judy Irving
Released: October 20, 2005
Grade: A

Director Judy Irving doesn’t describe her film as a documentary but rather as a non-fiction feature.  It’s an apt term because it doesn’t have the feel of a documentary.  It has a very likeable lead actor and a supporting cast of birds who will melt any heart.

The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill is the story of Mark Bittner and a flock of cherry-headed conures.  Somewhat of a bum, Mark had drifted through life with no job and little money.  Living in a small shack in San Francisco, he slowly became captivated by a small group of birds which lived in the trees outside.

As the flock grew in size, so did Mark’s interest.  He was soon feeding them on a daily basis and caring for them when they became sick.  There were close to 50 in all but Mark could identify each one and had given them all a name.  He didn’t like to think of himself as “eccentric” but there wasn’t really a better word to describe him.

Mark was never an expert in birds but the relationship he had with them gave him the chance to study what few others have had a chance to.  Filmmaker Judy Irving met Mark and over a period of four and half years, realised the potential in this story.  She took hours of footage and the end result is a touching film which has earned the chance to be seen across the globe.  Mark Bittner is currently in Australia and is helping promote the film by coming along to special screenings.

Mark’s story is great but it’s no comparison to that of the birds themselves.  When you see them and how they live, you’ll learn that their emotions are a mirror image of those of a human being.  They get involved in relationships, they cheat on each other, they have fights, they feel sympathy and they have a need for companionship.  They are captivating creatures and I had a soft spot for one particular bird named Connor.

At a compact 83 minutes, The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill is a G-rated crowd pleaser.  A surprising twist makes for the perfect ending and should leave you smiling as you walk out the door.