The beloved 2003 documentary, THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL, has been given a 4K restoration for a new release is set in San Francisco, there are at least two flocks of largely wild parrots who flock around the city. This film focuses on the flock of cherry-headed conures (and a lonely blue-headed one named Connor) who flock around the Telegraph Hill region of the city and their closest human companion, Mark Bittner. Through his own words, we learn of his life as a frustrated, homeless musician and how he came to live in the area where he decided to explore the nature around him. That lead him to discovering the parrot flock and the individual personalities of it. In a cinematic portrait, we are introduced to his colorful companions and the relationship they share as well as the realities of urban wild life that would change Bittner’s life forever. Director / Producer / Writer / Editor / Cinematographer Judy Irving’s profoundly moving story of human interaction with nature is made personal and universal by Mark Bittner boundless love for Sophie, Picasso, Mingus, Olive, Pushkin, Tupelo and Connor. THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL is one the best documentaries of the last 20 years.
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was released theatrically in 35mm in 2005 and broadcast on national public television in 2007. The 4K re-mastered, restored version has been released to theaters by Shadow Distribution in 2023 and to streaming platforms by Ro*Co Films in 2024.
About the subject – Although Mark Bittner is no scientist and this is not a “nature film,” he becomes something of an expert as he consults local birders, and as he feeds, names, studies, and protects the cherry-headed conures — escaped pets who have begun to breed in the wilds of the city. Parrot “stars” include Connor, a lonely blue-crowned conure, ostracized by the cherry heads; Picasso and Sophie, an affectionate pair who love to cuddle; Pushkin, a single father who raises three babies on his own; and Mingus, who bebops to Mark’s guitar music.
About the filmmaker – Pelican Media Executive Director Judy Irving is a Sundance-and-Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker whose theatrical credits include The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a feature documentary about the relationship between a homeless street musician and a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco, Pelican Dreams, about California brown pelicans and the people who know them best, Dark Circle, a personal film about the links between nuclear power and weapons, and Cold Refuge, about how swimming in open water mitigates life’s challenges. In 2015 Judy was elected to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Documentary Branch. Wild Parrotswas a “Top Ten Film of the Year” (National Film Critics’ Poll), was the highest-rated program on the national PBS series “Independent Lens,” and is now in international distribution. Pelican Dreams screened in over 100 theaters and later streamed by Netflix. Dark Circle, which won the Grand Prize at Sundance and a National Emmy, was re-mastered in HD and re-released by First Run Features. Cold Refuge has just begun its flight to festivals and eventual distribution. Judy spent childhood summers on the North Fork of Long Island, and came to love birds thanks to her grandfather. She graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in Psychology and worked as a freelance journalist in Montreal before hitchhiking across the continent and living on a handmade raft-house in British Columbia. Later, she received her Masters in Film and Broadcasting from Stanford University, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Film. Her documentary film career has taken her to Alaska, Japan, Russia, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, with peace and the environment as her main areas of interest. Somehow, birds seem to show up in every movie. Judy’s six-film documentary series about the San Francisco Bay Area’s wildlife and open space led to her interest in the wild parrot flock flying the city’s north waterfront, and her habit of swimming year-round in the Bay led to her most recent documentary, Cold Refuge.
“An absolute delight and nothing like the wimpy nature film its title suggests. It’s a soaring — figuratively and literally — documentary with a surprising emotional power.” – Eleanor Ringel Cater, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Bittner has a passion for these parrots, he’s taken the time to painstakingly befriend them, and Telegraph Hill takes you into his world as completely as he has gone into theirs.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times