The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill Review

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The story of the flock of escaped tropical parrots that live wild in the streets of San Francisco, and Mark Bittner, a man who also used to live on the streets but now keeps watch over them.


The second bird documentary of the week is a smaller, urban cousin to blockbuster March of the Penguins. Its parrots are city boys; a flock of tropical cherry crowned conures that have made the titular San Francisco hill their home. However, this film focuses less on the birds than the birdman.

Failed musician and former vagrant Mark Bittner has studied the flock for years, and if his journey from homelessness to animal icon is not quite as fascinating to viewers as it obviously was to director Judy Irving, he is an informative and impassioned narrator. Bittner's keen to emphasise that he's not as crackers as he might appear, and while the scale of his obsession with his feathered friends occasionally suggests otherwise, the Jane Eyre-like ending provides hope that there is life after parrots for him.

The fluffy critters are adorable, and Bittner a genuine modern eccentric, but an 80s-style soundtrack and sometimes grainy images detract from the impact.