Million Dollar Pigeons
Director: Gavin Fitzgerald
Release Date: November 25
While on the Hill of Tara, tripping on psilocybin mushrooms and DMT, John O’Brien was visited by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, who told him to race pigeons.
It is an introduction to the main protagonist of the documentary, Million Dollar Pigeons, which sets the bar of eccentricity ridiculously high from the story’s outset. Yet, for 98 minutes, the sense of unreality only deepens, until director Gavin FitzGerald leaves his audience feeling utterly unsurprised to learn that a pigeon has sold for $1.3 million.
Framed as an underdog story, FitzGerald trails O’Brien while attempting to persuade the members of his local club in Clondalkin to compete in the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race. It is a lucrative international event, and he, the eternal optimist, believes they stand a fighting chance.
But whereas the Clondalkin team readies their four best birds, heavy hitters from across the globe are assembling “armies” of between 50 and 100 fliers, some costing more than hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. And as the tournament descends into carnage, O’Brien’s unbridled positivity is tested once it becomes a case of survival of the richest.
A journey equal parts hilarious, tragic and horrendous, Million Dollar Pigeons is an exploration into arguably one of the goofiest realms of capitalism. Gloriously shot, it offers insight into what feels like an absurdist parallel universe, which by its climax, leaves the audience with an appreciation towards the physical form of the pigeon, similar to that Da Vinci had towards the Vitruvian Man.
Words: Michael Lanigan