Pelican Dreams (2015)

by | Apr 12, 2015 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Pelican Dreams (2015)

Director: Judy Irving
Actors: Mark Bittner, Laura Corsiglia
Studio: Docurama/Shadow Distr./CINEDIGM [4/7/15] DOC4697
|Video: For 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 5.1 & 2.0
Subtitles: English
Extras: Incl. over an hour of mini-movies & extras
Length: 79 min.
Rating: ***67*

The second feature film from the director of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which was a big hit at Sundance, this next bird movie seems like a well-done PBS nature documentary, and tells you things you probably never knew before about pelicans.

It opens with smartphone-shot footage of the rescue of a brown pelican with an injured wing who blocked traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. Gigi is taken to a wildlife rehab facility and the course of the film explores the nesting grounds of the pelicans on an island offshore from Santa Barbara, their Pacific Coast migration and the challenges of their survical – especially if their wing injuries will never heal enough for them to fly again.

The latter is true of a rehab pelican named Morro, who becomes a backyard resident with a couple, and in one surprising scene opens the door and walks into their house for the first time and to check it out. It becomes very interested in using its long beak to pull at the tassles on a lampshade. Some of the difficulties of some pelicans are not ignored: the scenes of their struggles with fishermen, oil spills and DDT are of great concern.

The hope of the bird handlers is to get as close to these wild animals as possible without harming or taming them. One of them avoids eye contact with the pelicans, because they are very curious and frequently use that. Irving says on the soundtrack that she originally saw pelicans as sort of prehistoric flying monsters, but now that she knows them she doesn’t feel that way anymore.

The scene where a bunch of pelicans who have been rehabilitated are released next to the bay near the Golden Gate Bridge is very moving. I recall the difficulty I had getting anything done at my desk on my houseboat in Sausalito while the pelicans were turning themselves into arrows and diving in the bay for fish. As the SF Chronicle said, the film “reveals a sense of wonder and awe at the birds’ simple beauty.”

(Incidently, there’s what looks like a wonderful documentary out now on the guy who played Big Bird on Sesame Street for so many years.)

—John Sunier

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