wild parrots … couldn’t drag me away
June 16, 2009 § 9 Comments
HM and I are taking a break from the print world this evening to watch a documentary. It combines San Francisco, nature TV, Beat literature, photography, the CityLights Bookstore, birds, homelessness and the environment. And love.
It is The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It begins with such lovely photography that I wouldn’t care if no one talked in the film.
But of course they do.
four minutes into the film … OK, I’m hooked. Mark Bittner, the co-star of the film (with the birds) is singing to the parrots (they are cherry-headed conyers) and one of them is bopping to it.
Also part-time narrator and topic of the film, Bittner lives in SF, for 15 years on the streets, though not homeless, he says, to clarify. His was on a spirtiaul path rather than a career path.
But it didn’t work out. Neither did his music which he went to SF for.
He tried different things, including making cappcinos which gives an instant “in” in SF, but nothing suited. A fanof poet Gary Snyder, Mark took Snyder’s cue:”If you want to know nature, start where you are.”
So Mark began sitting on his balcony on Telegraph Hill and he held out birdseed. Birds began to come.
About 45 of them.
He comes to know each of the parrots, he names them, is attuned to their markings and their personalities. He loves Connor, the eldest, the blue crowned conyer ignored principally by the others and mateless. He loves Mingus, who will only live indoors with Mark. He talks about Pushkin and how he raises his own babies when his mate is hawked. He talks of Sophie and Picasso, hoping that Sophie will pair with Connor when Picasso fails to return. (Hawks are always a possibility when parrots disappear.)
What does Bittner do, actually? He keeps a flock journal of the birds, he gets coffee and a roll from an Italian bakersy shop where he’s treated like a “bella bambino.” People give him things, contributing ultimately to the parrot “project.”
The documentary continues, with us seeing more of the birds, more of their habits, a bit on their nests (locations NOT given) and the fledging of the babies. We meet the owners of the house eventually for which Mark is the “caretaker.”
Filmaker Judy Irving deftly weaves in some dramatic tension (or is it my inherent need for story with plot, climax, denouement?) No, it’s there. And it keeps us watching, as if the photography and the character of the parrots is not enough.
I will say that I shed a tear. I cannot tell you why. You may react differently.
The film is 83 minutes long. If your Netflix queue needs something to pop it, I recommend this one.
And I will give you one clue because I love love: Mark cuts his hair.