Call me hard-hearted, but there is only so long I can tolerate overly-anthropomorphic nature films about creatures who suffer for the sins of man.

Director Judy Irving has wonderful footage of Pacific pelicans in the wild, but once they are captured–usually because they are ill &/or injured–she turns her subjects into pets, and starts writing dialogue for them. Oy! (JLH: 3/3)

Directed by Judy Irving. Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. NOT YET SEEN BY RICH.


Review of Pelican Dreams by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Pelican Dreams begins with Judy Irving narrating footage of a pelican stopping traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. The documentary picks up from there and proceeds to tell the sad story of the almost-extinct birds.

Like her previous film, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Irving’s documentary is targeted towards nature (and animal) lovers. She overlaps her own story with footage of endangered pelicans, interweaving her passion for the animals with shots of them in their natural habitat – or at least their natural habitat outside San Francisco. We learn little-known facts about pelicans, from mating rituals to their flying abilities. The intelligent animals are shown turning their necks 360 degrees to show affection for other pelicans and seen as charming animals in general.

The film centers on two pelicans in particular – Gigi, the bird on the Golden Gate Bridge, and Morro, the bird living in the backyard of rehab specialists Dani and Bill Nicholson. Irving and the Nicholsons’ main goal is to get both pelicans back into the wild. Watching their journey is interesting (and sometimes humorous) but overall, very sad. The purpose of the documentary is to show every aspect of how pelicans are overlooked and under appreciated. The point is made by the first 20 minutes of the film and starts to feel tedious and gloomy. The remaining portion of Pelican Dreams shows the care given to the injured birds, with Irving covering all the bases of why pelicans are going extinct – climate change, oil spills, and pollution.

At some points, the imagery is difficult to watch but the entire purpose of the documentary is to open people’s eyes and that is exactly what it does. The stunning footage the documentarian captures of pelicans soaring over cliffs and through the San Francisco fog is both breathtaking and thought provoking. Somehow, through the lens of her camera and her saddened voiceovers, she makes you think twice about a subject unfamiliar to so many people. It shows how humans are directly and indirectly affecting the lives of these endangered species, so if Pelican Dreams does nothing but make people more mindful of their actions, then Irving has successfully done her job.


Review © Brigid K. Presecky (11/08/14)

Top Photo: Judy Irving with brown pelican Gigi

Bottom Photo: A white pelican in St. James Park, London

Photo Credits: Shadow Distribution and Stephen McLaren / Pelican Media

Q: Does Pelican Dreams pass the Bechdel Test? RedA


Irving speaks with several conservationists, a couple of whom are women.

But it’s a stretch…

Tags: Judy Irving, Pelican Dreams

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