This Week in Communing With Nature

  No question about it, birds dominated the non-fiction box office this year—heck, March of the Penguins was such a success it damn near dominated the box office in general. Who knew?! Yet amid all the fuss over those cute-as-a-button little flightless birds from down south, there's another smaller-scale, more intimate and arguably more affecting documentary about birds that is now available on DVD. Director Judy Irving captures with startling intimacy the attachments we form with animals, as well as the fascinating sociological aspects of bird life, in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which chronicles the story of self-professed dharma bum Mark Bittner. Surviving only on the occasional odd job and living rent-free in a cottage belonging to a San Francisco couple in the eponymous neighborhood, Bittner's encounters with the flocks of tropical birds—escaped from captivity, now a part of the city's wildlife—comprise the bulk of the film, both a beautifully filmed portrait of a very unique habitat and a fascinating look into one man's voyage of discovery through his bond with the birds he feeds, shelters, sometimes nurses back to health. Content with his humble existence after years on the street, no longer in pursuit of the music career that eluded him and searching for a purpose in life, Bittner is a soft-spoken yet strong protagonist whose tale has a genuine poignancy, brought to a tense climax when it's revealed that he'll have to leave his cottage (set for renovation) and the fate of the birds is unknown. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is both absolutely engrossing and top-notch non-fiction storytelling; the DVD release includes a group of deleted scenes as well as a seven-minute follow up short shot since completion of the film.

Also released this week: 2046; The Shield, Season 4; Suburbia; Toy Story 2: Special Edition; Tracey Takes On, Season 1; The Twilight Zone, Season 5.

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