HotDocs review: Feathered Cocaine [2010, Thorkell Hardarsson / Orn Marino Arnarson]

Toronto – What does a converted Sikh man from Maine who trains falcons has to do with finding Osama bin Laden? Apparently lots. Alan Parrot seems to have a knack for running into characters who spend their holidays with the most wanted person in the world; and he also have a knack for making them talk on camera.

From early age, Parrot has been interested in birds and falcons especially. He skipped town, fled to Iran to learn how to train them. He somehow finding himself working at the Royal falconry in Tehran (apparently some old guy led him there). He spent the next few years capturing (legally, he said) Saker, peregrine and gyrfalcons for sale to the UAE. And when he noticed that the central Asian falcon population has dropped dramatically, he vows to stop this black-market trade.

This was probably the weirdest film and Q&A session that I saw at these Hot Docs. There was usually no tension between the crowd and the filmmakers. At Isabel Bader this afternoon tension was thick enough to skate on. One of the directors ranted on, speaking about their intention and falcons, for 10 minutes after opening the Q&A session, and then stole a question addressed to Parrot. Apparently they had started the film with the intention of making a conservation film, and only found Parrot, hence the entire Arabian branch, after the fact. The film itself went from a nature tone for the first 45 minutes, and then without warning became a full terrorist-hunting movie and stayed there for another 30 minutes showing evidence of support. And then it turns back to conservation and stopping black-market trades, ending with an ever so eloquent Kazakh eagle trainer. One viewer questioned Parrot’s conservation effort, basically tried to call his bluff, by asking for the “fur on the chair”. I didn’t even recall seeing that. Why Sherlock looked for a chair in a bird movie is beyond me, but Parrot’s answer was “faux lynx”… equally as bizarre. The film also did not make clear what constituted legal or illegal. Read this other, more complete review to get a better sense.

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Hot Docs, Reviews