AFF Review: ‘Bird’s Eye’ is full of heart

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AFF Review: ‘Bird’s Eye’ is full of heart
'Bird's Eye' explores change, tumult and love through the eyes of a parrot in Mike Kravinsky's jewel of a short film. (Courtesy Photo)
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By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]

“Bird’s Eye” is an endearing film that depicts how a parrot responds differently depending on how it’s treated. The 14-minute movie, written and directed by Mike Kravinsky with a score by his wife Liza, shows the world through the lens of the bird’s eye.

The bird’s owner, a sweet older woman who sings to the parrot and tells him she loves him as she leaves the room, is rewarded with cooing and spoken greetings from her pet. The bird’s frantic reaction when, spoiler alert, the woman dies is particularly moving.

The bird endures a difficult time during which it is not understood by those around it, and consequentially it cannot understand what its caregivers are saying. This lack of understanding is presented in a clever and original way; it’s the most striking element of the film.

The parrot has the good fortune to wind up in the care of a man who was a friend of the bird’s deceased owner. The man sits in front of the parrot’s cage and speaks to it earnestly and gently, showing it kindness which the bird understands and to which it responds.

The cast of “Bird’s Eye” is headed by the accomplished Joan Darling, who is best known as the director of the “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which some have called the funniest sitcom episode of all time. Other cast members include Anna Fagan and Mike Shiflett.

Viewers are encouraged to first watch the film, then watch the entertaining Q&A session moderated by Alexandria Film Festival Chair Margaret Wohler, then rewatch the film armed with the knowledge gained from the interviews. The whole process will only take around 45 minutes.

Wohler chats not only with Darling, but also both Kravinskys, Fagan and producer Sali Dimond.

We learn that Darling started out as an actress in a TV series – she played a secretary on “Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law” that starred Lee Majors – before Norman Lear steered her toward directing, a realm populated by few women during the early and mid-1970s. The “Chuckles” episode was only the second Darling directed for MTM Enterprises, and it earned her one of her four Emmy nominations. Though Darling said she only intended to give directing one year, “Fifteen years later I was still directing.”

Darling was enchanted by the script of “Bird’s Eye” after a friend from the D.C. office of Women in Film sent her a copy, and she lobbied Mike Kravinsky for the part.

The Kravinskys said the film was based on their parrot Pepo, who died in 2016. Mike Kravinsky said Pepo was “almost like a child” who responded strongly to the people around him. The parrot in “Bird’s Eye” is not depicted other than by the sounds he makes and brief images of his talon and beak – which were actually elaborate puppet pieces.

Kravinsky went to great lengths to tell this story in an authentic way. The result is a small jewel.

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