Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003, Judy Irving)

"A homeless musician finds meaning to his life when he starts a friendship with dozens of parrots."

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking film about Mark Bittner who over the years has grown to love the wild birds that live around his house. The story it tells is a simple one but it's a beautiful and sometimes very intimate one that pulls on your heartstrings a lot.

Everything you see in this documentary feels so natural and innocent that you also get swept into this perspective where by the end of the documentary you see the birds as Mark Bittner does. So much so that the final 20 minutes will leave you beyond heartbroken and maybe a little bit depressed. I love this one because of this.

Every documentary that comes out, at least to me lately, seems to be about 9/11 or Iraq or some other event or situation which is causing a profound effect on our culture. I'm all for this but sometimes I get tired of these documentaries that set out to tackle such an extreme subject. I'm all for it but sometimes I feel that I am no longer watching a documentarian but rather a journalist behind the camera. The best documentaries I have ever seen have always been about a personal subject matter to the filmmaker or something that he finds interesting. The best documentaries also seem to tell a story. It's these "true life stories" which make documentaries so memorable. That's why no matter what Michael Moore does in the future his best film will still be Roger and Me. It has that emotional connection that most other documentaries, including his later efforts, seem to lack.

This is also why Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill feels like a breath of fresh air. It feels like so long ago that I have seen a documentary that was about something simple but yet told a profound story. The simple story this film tells about a man and his parrots will get to you more than any other documentary you have seen in a long time. I guarantee it.

There is not much more to say about this one. Just go watch it. It's a beautiful little documentary.

- ****

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