Monday, October 11, 2010

Do Pelicans Dream?

Judy Irving, the director and producer of the film The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (based on the book by Mark Bittner) wrote to me the other day.  She is half way through her next film project, Pelican Dreams.  I find Pelicans to be really majestic, old souls.  We have many of them on the coast where my second home is and to sit on the cliff-tops there and just watch them flying and go about their own lives is one of my greatest pastimes.  Unfortunately, this was one bird that suffered greatly and many were lost during the gulf oil spill.

Here is a quote from Judy as she was remarking on Werner Herzog's view of nature and reflects something I think we all feel deep down:

“Nature is implacable. Nature is going to do what it will do. If we’re going to spill millions of gallons in the gulf, it will have an effect. I get the feeling from Herzog that he sort of hates nature. I want to go there. I want to experience the wild. Not something like a wild party where you drink a lot, or a road you drive down real fast, but I want to experience something that’s naturally wild, that’s wild out there on the planet.”

I encourage you to visit her website and if you can, help her by donating some funds towards the cost of producing this movie.

Here is her synopsis of Pelican Dreams (in progress):

One August afternoon, a young, confused, hungry, and very tired brown pelican created a spectacular traffic jam on the Golden Gate Bridge by landing on the roadway. Later named “Gigi” (for Golden Gate), she was “arrested,” put in a police car, and taken to a seabird rescue center. Pelican Dreams follows Gigi’s time in human hands and her release back to the wild, using her story to paint a broader picture of these ancient, mysterious birds.

Do pelicans dream? If so, what do they dream about? Who knows pelicans best? Fishermen compete with them, surfers share the waves with them, wildlife rehabilitators take care of them, and field biologists study their populations. These are the human characters in Pelican Dreams, and the various ways in which they know these birds will help us build up a picture of their personalities, habitat, population, and survival challenges. From the Channel Islands in southern California where Gigi was probably born, up the Pacific Coast to Sand Island in the Columbia River, the film creates a portrait of these elegant yet comical birds. As viewers fall in love with pelicans, they will be more motivated to protect the marine environment we all depend on.

Pelicans illustrate, metaphorically, the checkered history of our relationship with the natural world. Flourishing for 40 million years, they’ve barely survived the last 100. Plume hunting in the 19th century and nest robbing during World War I reduced their populations, but after World War II, DDT nearly drove them to extinction. Ingested with fish, DDT caused pelicans’ eggshells to become so thin that they cracked during incubation. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Environmental Defense Fund’s DDT lawsuit launched the environmental movement and led to the eventual ban on DDT. Despite being taken off the Endangered Species List in late 2009, brown pelicans face daunting 21st century challenges such as domoic acid poisoning caused by ocean algal blooms, and oil-spill disasters such as in the Gulf of Mexico. Pelicans are avian ambassadors, mirroring our stewardship of the coastal environment and helping audiences relate to it in a personal way.

The film is produced and directed by Judy Irving, a Sundance-and-Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker who produced and directed Pelican Media’s 2005 film, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, the third highest-grossing animal documentary ever released to theatres. The budget for Pelican Dreams, another feature-length film with wide distribution potential, is $470,000, of which $82,500 has been raised to date from individuals, foundations (Dean Witter, Wheeler, and Gerbode Foundations), CA Audubon, and in-kind contributions. Partnerships with the National Park Service—Channel Islands—and California Audubon provide production support: transport, lodging, and logistics. So far we’ve shot about 28 hours of film and video footage, have begun logging, and have edited a 16-minute DVD rough-cut of the first few scenes from the movie. We are actively seeking tax-deductible donations for this timely, in-progress, 501(c)(3) nonprofit film. 

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