“Feathered Cocaine,” from filmmakers Thorkell Hardarson and Orn Marino Arnarson, is a fascinating documentary about the illegal and lucrative world of falcon smuggling, that ends up exposing an even darker, widespread network involving royal Arab families, the oil industry, the CIA and Al-Qaeda.
At the heart of this film is Alan Parrot, who finished high school in the early '70s and traveled to Iran, to follow his dream to work with falcons. Here his real education began, as he honed his expertise and reputation, eventually becoming the resident falconer to the Shah of Iran.
As Parrot's reputation grew he exported falcons to the most powerful and wealthy of the Arab world, where the birds are prized as symbols of status and used during influential hunting parties. But Parrot's success unintentionally fostered a black-market for the birds that is unsustainable and has the birds on the brink of regional -- and perhaps global -- extinction.
Wracked with guilt, Parrot began a quest to end the black-market and slam shut, in his words, “the Pandora’s Box I opened.” The gravity of his culpability in what he started weighs heavy on his shoulders to the point of reducing him to tears. What he didn’t realize was the enormous scope of the conspiracy and intrigue connected to his unique profession and passion.
The web of corruption, the influence of big oil, and Osama bin Laden’s love of falconry are all touched upon in this film. The magnitude of ties the between illegal falcon trading and the role it plays in the funding and communication network of Al-Qaeda is astonishing. It’s a complex tapestry of money, events and power players that the directors uncover and are skillfully able to connect the dots and tell the story.
“Feathered Cocaine” draws the viewer in gradually, leading them to territory they couldn’t have imagined. Directors Hardarson and Arnarson expertly weave incredible footage, powerful documentation and explosive interviews to form an expose that will no doubt be a front runner in the best World Documentary Competition at the festival at the Tribeca Film Festival