Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Review: Pigeon Kings

Release date: April 14, 2020
Running time: 81 minutes
Starring: Keith London, Darrian Hogg

Pigeon Kings explores the competitive pigeon breeding and aerobatics subculture in south central Los Angeles.  The documentary focuses on two men, Keith London--the regional champion and top bird of the area--and Darrian Hogg--a younger competitor who is trying to perfect his craft and learn from Keith.  The two are preparing for qualification in the Roller Pigeon World Cup, which is held every year and covers pigeon teams from all over the world.  

Pigeon Kings has some beautiful cinematography, with absolutely gorgeous shots of south central LA and of its pigeon competitions.  The filmmakers stick to the area of competition--without having too many LA glamour shots--but do a great job composing realistic but beautiful shots of south central.  These are both of the competition and the birds themselves.  Seeing the birds in flight is really something to behold; there are some truly amazing images of these roller pigeons doing what they do best.  The roller pigeon world cup is an organized competition with judges and scoring, but the judging in the film takes place at each competitor's house, with competitors, judges, and spectators all standing in the streets.  It is really something to see and makes me sad I never experienced it myself when I lived in LA.  I had no idea that this sub culture existed but the documentary makes clear that there is an entire scene here, with rival clubs, local celebrities, and pigeon coops throughout the city. 

But this film is more than just about the competition.  The main focus is on London and Hogg, and Pigeon Kings really shows how much they care about the birds, their community, and their sport, sometimes to the detriment of their personal lives.  The film has many instances of them giving advice to each other, or helping the younger generation become interested in this sport.  And it shows them not only competing, but also putting in the time to prepare for the competition; working late into the night taking care of their birds in order to get them ready for the ultimate qualification.  And this passion also has an effect on their personal lives, which Pigeon Kings highlights as well. 

My main critique of the film is that I simply wanted more.  I wanted to know more about these birds, their unique flying ability, and the origins of this competition.  I also wanted to know more about the World Cup and this interesting competition.  I wanted to see what this scene was like and know about competitors around the world.  And although the film focuses on South Central and the local competitors, the film's main focus is on London and Hogg.  However, I would have liked to see more of the south central clubs and see how they interacted.  It seems like the film touches on all of these things without going into too much depth.  But when my main criticism of a film is that I simply wanted more of it, then that is usually a good sign.

Pigeon Kings explores the competitive aerobatic pigeon scene in south central LA through two men's passion for the sport and their community.  

Watch it.

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