Night Parrot Stories

  • ACMI Federation Square, Flinders Street Melbourne Australia

This screening of Night Parrot Stories includes a short film Life at Snail's Pace (see below).

Dir. Robert Nugent | Australia | 2016 | 89mins | Melbourne Premiere

The nocturnal Night Parrot is one of the most elusive creatures in the world. It is often described by anthropologist and filmmaker Robert Nugent as the “Thylacine of the air” and garners comparisons to Ahab’s White Whale from Moby Dick. There is nothing of its ecology to be found in the record books and while literary descriptions of this furtive fowl can be traced back as far as 1861, it has until recently been presumed to be completely extinct.

Accepting the position of wayfairing wanderer, Nugent goes on an obsessive quest through the remote deserts of Australia where the bird once lived to hear stories of sightings from Indigenous community members who revere the Night Parrot as legend. He also embarks on a journey across the Indian Ocean to inspect European museums where taxidermied specimens serve as the sole remaining proof that the bird ever existed.

Examining the way these vastly different cultures conceive of and protect historicity, Night Parrot Stories attempts to define the Night Parrot by compiling the multitude of traces it has left behind. Through the film, Nugent offers an elegiac contemplation on the nature of extinction; on the ravages of time and environmental loss, weaving together philosophical musings and images of the sublime into an intensely inventive and vivid tapestry. Night Parrot Stories inhabits the space where art and science coalesce, questioning how human knowledge comes to be created, can be lost but may always be restored from even the most ephemeral and unexpected of sources.

The film documents a quest to locate the rare nocturnal desert dwelling bird, and presents a range of ethnographic approaches, while raising questions with respect to our fragmented and incomplete natural history archive, engagement with indigenous communities, and the ethics and aesthetics of representing more-than-human environments.
— Tom Bristow, University of Melbourne
A treasure. It swings from reverent through whimsical, taking in the gamut of the emotions. The narrative is fragmented and intuitive. The cinematography is bloody gorgeous. Be sure not to miss this odyssey: you may never see its likes again.
— Bob Duran, Alice Springs News

Life at Snail's Pace


Life at a Snail’s Pace is a portrait documentary of Marla Coppolino and her unusual passion for the world’s smallest dwellers: land snails. In between science and art, Marla brings you into their tiny world. She embarks on a mission to enlighten you to the plight of the lowly land snail through creative, intimate and unconventional means.