This review originally appeared on IONCinema.
Tribeca 2010: Thorkell Hardarson and Orn Marino Adnarson's Feathered Cocaine
by Melissa Silvestri
One of the most profitable and unusual illegal trades has been falconry. Throughout the Persian Gulf, falcons, sold for recreational hunting, can go from $25,000 to $1 million a bird, often traveling from Central Asia, and used as a status symbol for rich businessmen. Thorkell Hardarson and Orn Marino Adnarson, directors of Feathered Cocaine, center on a man who used to be in this underground trade, but now works to crack down on illegal falcon smugglers for the love of the birds.
Hari Har Singh Khalsa, born as an American named Alan Parrot, left home when he was 18 to Iran to work with falcons, eventually smuggling them and raising them for the royal court. But after many years in the trade, he sees the toll on the birds, the greed in his clients and companions, and the dirty connections between government officials and the falcon trade, and is desperately trying to eradicate this shady business.
The twist in the film is when Khalsa discovers that Osama Bin Laden is an aficionado of the birds, and decides to use that as a method of tracking down his whereabouts, but to little to no avail. That moment changes the course of the film from being about falcons to governments either supporting or being indifferent to illegal trades and terrorism, wondering just who is scratching whose back here.
Feathered Cocaine is more about politics and shady trades than it is about falcons, and it is a fascinating film about a little-known trade that works as a cover for the way business is done in the Middle East. Bold statements and harsh realities fly in the film, with the feeling that governments will always let something slide if there’s something to be gained in their favor.