“I have always been fascinated by these flying dinosaurs, but this film is really about relationships we humans have with wild animals,” says filmmaker Judy Irving about her new film, Pelican Dreams that comes to the Southland next week in limited release beginning November 7, 2014
Irving, Emmy-Award winning filmmaker of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, turns her lens to another feathered beast, one that she’s been eyeing since she was a child. In fact, her plans were to produce a pelican film first, but the opportunity came up with wild parrots, which set her back about 10 years.
“I was also looking for a hook for the film,” admits Irving about finding an emotional story line that could engage an audience and help frame the content. She found that hook when a California brown pelican was found wandering on Golden Gate Bridge. “Gigi” as she was soon to be called, was sent to a wildlife rehabilitation facility which kicks the film into gear.
“What I discovered in doing this film is the amazing underground railroad there is for wild animals and the network of rehabilitators,” she says. “These are the unsung heroes, many of them are volunteers who do this work out of the goodness of their hearts.”
The film also features the story of Morro, a backyard pelican suffering from an injured wing.
In addition to the pelican stars, the film introduces humans who know pelicans best: wildlife re-habbers, fisherman, seabird biologists and a lone surfer. True to form, the film was created during the production and wasn’t scripted before hand. What you see was Irving’s experience and discovery.
Six years in the making, Irving’s film imagines the early story of her featured pelicans and traces their beginnings at the Channel Islands National Park, off the SoCal coast of Ventura, the only U.S. nesting population of the pouched flyers. She traveled with national park rangers to Santa Barbara Island; there are also nesters on Anacapa but their close proximity to pathways made it too easy to disturb them.
In addition to riding over via water, Irving got a birds-eye’s view of the Islands on a helicopter trip. “The National Park Service was just fantastic about it,” she says about their enthusiasm for the project.
Indeed, many folks think of pelicans with fondness, Irving continues. Seeing them soar mightily above in graceful lines and with ballet-like wings flapping in the breeze. We also like it when they are clumsy on the ground, she says.
“Here’s a film that takes you deeper into their lives and you get to see what they are facing daily as they try to surive on the coast of California,” Irving explains. “I’d like to see all of us get motivated to try to take better care of the ocean, we depend on the ocean. We are, afterall, all in this together.”
Pelican Dreams screens in Southern California at select theaters starting Nov. 7. Irving will offer a Q&A at the Royal Movie Theatre in Santa Monica on Nov. 7 and at the Laemmele’s Playhouse in Pasadena on Nov. 8. More details and showtimes here.
— Brenda Rees, editor