Posted: August 16, 2012, 2:15 p.m. PST
The Life with Alex film features never-before-seen footage of the late African grey parrot.
To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of the world-renowned Alex, the African grey parrot, Grey Parrot Studios, in association with the Alex Foundation, is releasing the DVD Life with Alex. The movie features never-before-released footage of the African grey parrot. Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s ground-breaking cognition and communication research with animals made Alex famous. He unexpectedly died at the age of 31 on September 6, 2007, and the loss of the pioneering parrot was felt worldwide.
While alive, Alex made television appearances where he showed off his cognitive skills, but his day-to-day life at the lab was never revealed – until now.
“He deserved a movie to tell his story,” said Arlene Levin, lab manager for Pepperberg’s research facility and the producer of Life with Alex. “I wanted to let the world know what a beautiful parrot he was … There is a lot of footage out there that is very old and is shown over and over, [but] that is not the Alex that I knew.”
The film opens a window into the unprecedented world of Alex, Pepperberg, Levin and the various lab assistants. It shows Alex’s daily life, relationships and accomplishments. Much of the footage of Alex was shot on home video-type cameras, and it was a challenge to make it come to life, according to Emily Wick, the director of Life with Alex. But the challenges of creating the film didn’t stop Wick, a fan of African grey parrots since she was child.
“For me, putting together a documentary is like hunting for treasure and building something beautiful, and there was so much to think about and so many great moments to witness,” Wick said. “The beginning stages of editing the movie and my first interviews with Arlene and Dr. Pepperberg were really exciting. I slowly saw the story unfold.”
One of Wick’s favorite moments in the movie is the opening scene. “The first time Alex speaks on screen [you] realize that a bird will be a speaking character in a real-life movie. Seeing him actually respond to a human’s question is awe-inspiring, even if you’ve read all about him already.”
Though it has been five years since his death, Alex still has an impact on bird owners and the world at large. Levin said she still receives emails and letters from Alex’s fans. “Pepperberg and Alex have made a huge contribution with their research on animal cognition,” Levin said. “Parrot owners always knew their bird was intelligent, but Alex and Pepperberg proved it to the world.”
Wick said it was extraordinary for an animal to make such huge breakthroughs in science and also win over the hearts of the general public. “Alex helped pave the way for further inquiry into avian intelligence and inspired future generations of scientists. On an individual level, Alex touched so many lives, and those kinds of impacts keep going in all sorts of unforeseen ways.”
Life with Alex was released September 2012. The DVD will be available on the Life with Alex movie website.
Check out a preview of the film below.