An intimate companion piece to 2002’s epic, globe-spanning Winged Migration, Judy Irving’s The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill tracks a flock of cherry-headed conures, several of whom emerge with distinct personalities. It’s also a portrait of Mark Bittner, the quasi-Saint Francis of San Francisco, who monitors, feeds, and—simply put—loves these green-fledged creatures, while rigorously insisting on their essential freedom. Bittner came to the city on the Beat-hippie cusp with dreams of being a musician; marching to his own drum, he still seems to exist on air and complimentary Italian carbohydrates.
Several sharp jolts give the doc its dramatic shape, and one episode in particular, caught with a neighbor’s lens, will make you gasp with grief. The conures’ shadowy origins are explored, but pale next to the fundamental mysteries of the friendship between man and bird. The fate of the flock is, necessarily, left up in the air, and though there’s a quite surprising resolution for the humans in this film, we’re free to imagine the fate of the conures outside the frame—cryptically darting en masse to some unknown goal, their bodies the same green as the leaves on the trees.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 1, 2005