DVD Features Modern-Day St. Francis Tending to Flock
Mark Bittner was a burnt-out hippie who had never quite found his purpose in life. For years, the bearded bohemian had barely been able to keep a roof over his head as a struggling street musician in San Francisco. Then, everything changed the day he came upon a colorful flock of tropical birds congregating in an area of the city called Telegraph Hill.
Exactly how the lime-green bodied, cherry-headed parrots arrived is simply the subject of speculation, though they are certainly not indigenous to the area. What’s important is that Mark found the wild warblers fascinating, and he immediately began feeding and then nursing the sick among them back to health. The new hobby soon turned into a full-time vocation, with this modern day St. Francis scattering huge bags of feed while ignoring his own personal need for food, clothing and money for rent.
Thanks to the kindness of friends, strangers and a very patient landlord, this story has a happy ending, and it’s all chronicled quite nicely in Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a documentary which captures the eccentric ornithologist communing with his flock with an intimacy that’s almost unimaginable.
He knows each of his dozens of birds by name and personality, noting not only their peculiar markings but also their individual eating, mating, traveling and nesting habits. Though Mr. Bittner also interacts with humans, too, he still comes off as a bit of an oddity. For most of his acquaintances, quite understandably, see him as a tad too taken with his animals.
Nonetheless, this brilliant film, by lingering on its subjects far longer than any casual passerby would dare, enables its audience to appreciate the fact that the world would be far better off with more sensitive souls like Mark.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 83 minutes
Studio: New Video Group
2-Disc DVD Extras: California Quail Bonus Short; Urban Legends; Origins of the Flock; Special Homage to Connor; Mark Bittner’s Home Movies; Please Don’t Feed the Birds; Music Video: Ballad of the Brooklyn Parrots; Behind the Scenes; Parrots Around the World; Flock Updates; Mark Bittner and Judy Irving Update; Original Theatrical Trailer; plus two new films by director Judy Irving ‘Christmas at the Bait Shop’ and ’19 Arrests, No Convictions ‘; and much more.