Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003)

WHO: Judy Irving directed this documentary.

WHAT: It's hard to believe it's been ten years since this lovely documentary about urban nature, the humanity of animals (or, perhaps more pertinently, vice versa), and the struggle for survival in a city with harsh forces pressing for us to turn our backs on our true selves, first began screenings in festivals. Though I'd enjoyed it on its initial release, I recently rewatched it and found it better than I had recalled, avoiding nearly all of the traps that have turned me away from commercially-released documentaries over the past decade or so. Here's a worthwhile review by a Chicago writer who I finally got to meet in person when she came to visit San Francisco earlier this year, Marilyn Ferdinand.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens 1PM today only at New People Cinema in San Francisco's Japantown, as part of the San Francisco Film Society's Zurich/SF film series.

WHY: The Zurich/SF series is an undertaking meant to highlight cinematic connections between San Francisco and the largest city in Switzerland (though still half Frisco's size in terms of population). Other match-ups screening today and tomorrow include Barry Jenkins's Medicine For Melancholy with Andrea Štaka's Fraulein this evening, Mindy Bagdon's furious Frisco punk document Louder, Faster, Shorter and Swiss Punk Cocktail: Zurich Scene 197680 tonight, and a pair of 1970s buddy-cop comedies Freebie and the Bean and The Swissmakers tomorrow. I don't know why Vitus is the odd film out in the weekend set, especially since I haven't seen it. But reading ploy synopses makes me wonder if there just wasn't enough time in the weekend to squeeze in a screening of something like Around The Bay (which has still yet to screen in San Francisco proper).

I'm hoping this series will be a success and lead to more cinematic looks at some of San Francisco's many other Sister Cities. Our city's link to Taipei has surely helped keep the annual Taiwan Film Days festival going, and I'm sure will be seeing some films set in Paris during French Cinema Now. I haven't investigated whether either of our Italian Sister Cities (Assisi and, as of this year, Naples) will be seen on screen during the just-announced New Italian Cinema series, but imagine future festivals devoted to films made in Barcelona, or Shanghai, or Seoul, or Sydney, or Manila? (Not to mention cities with filmmaking scenes I know next to nothing about, like Amman, Jordan or Cork, Ireland or Thessaloniki, Greece.)

In the meantime another recently-announced SFFS mini-fest has also been revealed, that serves as a counterpoint the the SF section of Zurich/SF. This weekend's films are all established classics of one stripe or another (maybe I'm not quite ready to call Freebie and the Bean a classic myself, but you know what I mean). But Cinema By The Bay focuses almost all its attention on brand-new works by local filmmakers. It runs November 22-24.

HOW: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill screens on a 35mm double-feature with another urban documentary made about ten years ago, called Downtown Switzerland


  1. Hi Brian: Mindy (short for the original Lithuanian Mindaugis) is how Mr Bagdon likes to spell his name, not Mindi

  2. Thanks! That was my original instinct but the SFFS site used the other spelling and I followed suit. I have now amended.