Pigeon Kings (2020) – Documentary Movie Review

Fly My Pretties!

In the heart of South Central LA lies a curious and fascinating pastime. That comes in the form of the competitive sport of aviation acrobatics. Boasting an army of trained pigeons, Pigeon Kings is a documentary movie examining the Kings of this sport and everything that comes with that.

The documentary plays out predominantly as a slice of life piece with accompanying face to face interviews for the different competitors and insiders involved in this sport. Dubbed by some as the Birmingham Rollers, these imported birds from England have been bred to perform and across the run-time we certainly get a glimpse of this.

A lot of the movie is underlined by a lovely jazz score that oozes charm throughout the 80 minutes. Alongside that are cutaway establishing shots of different garages and birds, along with plenty of men craning their neck and watching them perform in the sky.

Much like the musical score, the real fascination comes from the underlying elements about following your hobbies and passions no matter what. There’s certainly not much in the way of financial gain from this sport either and the sacrifice for breeding these birds costs far more than dollar bills.

Relationships crack and some end completely, family responsibilities work at odds with the bird breeding and the overwhelming amount of time needed to spend on this sport only reinforces that strain.

This intense focus on the pigeons and the sport at hand ultimately means a lot of the teasing glimpses of the neighbourhood, race and class issues that could have been explored more are kept to the back-burner in favour of this slice of life movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though and Pigeon Kings is a fascinating glimpse under the hood for a largely unknown sport.

Pigeon Kings is an unusually fascinating documentary, a movie that hones in on the different players at the top of this sport and follows the highs and lows they face on a daily basis. With a lot of the documentary playing out with fly-on-the-wall footage, the movie does have a few lulls but it more than makes up for that with a compelling tone and larger-than-life characters. This is certainly worth a watch though.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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