Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Feathered Cocaine

One of the exciting things about attending Hot Docs is that you get to 'meet' many fascinating people, who are committed to - or even obsessed - by topics that you knew nothing about. Alan Parrot is such a man and falcons was such a topic.

Alan Parrot, an American, grew up with a passion for falcons. As a young man, he travels to Iran to pursue his passion, and ends up involved in the extremely lucrative trade of falcons from the north sold to rich falconers in the Arab world. Arab falconers so serious about their sport that they are willing to pay into seven figures for the right falcon. As Parrot realizes that he is trading these birds into a quick death since they can't survive in the desert, and contributing to the falcons becoming an endangered species, his remorse leads him to dedicate himself to stopping the trade.

As he struggles to raise awareness and spark action to stop this trade (allegedly the fourth biggest illegal trade in the world, after drugs, arms, and people), he comes upon another aspect of this sport. Middle East Arabs feels most relaxed and serene when they are in the desert hunting their falcons, and they have what we'd call 'meet-ups' for up to a week of hunting together. Parrot discovers this is a particularly popular pastime of terrorists, particularly Osama bin Laden. The film includes an interview with someone who's spent time in the desert with Osama, and points out this would be when he's most exposed for people searching for him.

Parrot is a striking, tall man, wearing the turban of his adopted religion Sikhism. The movie, and the interview with him after the film, showed a passionate and single-minded devotion to pushing this issue in the US and the UN.

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