Private Project

Night Parrot Stories

An ode to the loss of a bird that was banished in the darkness.

Somewhere in the remote deserts of Australia lived an elusive nocturnal bird called the Night Parrot. Virtually nothing is known of its ecology. It disappeared at the end of the 19th Century. Searching for evidence of its existence became a preoccupation. Night Parrot Stories was filmed in all the locations where Night Parrots where once lived, during a time when stories of extinction were everywhere.

  • Robert Nugent
    End of the Rainbow, Memoirs of a Plague
  • Robert Nugent
    End of the Rainbow, Memoirs of a Plague
  • Mitzi Goldman
    End of the Rainbow, Memoirs of a Plague, A Common Purpose,Love & Sex in an Age of Pornography, Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 28 minutes 41 seconds
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Robert Nugent

Rob has an MA in Documentary from the Australian Film Television and Radio School. His film End of the Rainbow won the first appearance award at IDFA in 2007 and went on to screen at many festivals internationally. He has worked as a war artist for the Australian War Memorial in Iraq and EastTimor. He made No Dramas; recordings from Iraq in 2008, which is used in University teaching curriculums around Australia. His film Memoirs of a Plague (2011) screened at IDFA and HotDocs, Margaret Mead FF in New York, and iDocs in Beijing. He has screen credits with the ABC, ARTE, PBS, SBS and National Geographic. He has made several independent films as well as content for NGOs and TV.
Prior to filmmaking Rob worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and Cambodia for 11 years. He currently lives in Canberra where he periodically teaches at ANU. He is finishing an independent film on the rare Australian Night Parrot with development funds from Screen Australia. He is an Associate Research Fellow at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra and is enrolled in a PhD study on “Filming the Anthropocene” at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.
He has a long standing interest in ethnographic and observational filmmaking which draws together science and social understandings, in ways that are unusual and compelling. His other interests include imagining the pelagic and Antarctica in film.

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Director Statement

Three years ago I set out to make a film on the Night Parrot, a rare nocturnal desert dwelling bird. It had not been seen for over 80 years and was thought by many extinct. In the course of filming the locations where the Night Parrot had once been seen all those years ago, the bird
miraculously reappeared, making front page headlines around the world. I didn't find it, but the film suddenly became something other than an exploration of a mythical creature.

However I had no access to the story of its resurrection. The folk who found the Night Parrot were funded by a large mining company to do secret research. If the Night Parrot’s location was revealed its perilous existence may be threatened. So I held to the notion that there were still key elements missing in the story of the Night Parrot that I could film.

The film presents a range of different perspectives and ethnographic approaches. I hope to have done justice to some of the neglected narratives from the interconnected worlds I encountered in the desert…places and people at the margins of the modern world, but I believe they are central to the story of the Night Parrot and to the wider world. It was only when I returned from the desert, having recorded images which formed into tenuous and discordant threads, did I feel the true margins of the story. The geography of the Night Parrot’s story I came to think of as a trick of time. There is a journey to and from the desert, and to and from places where knowledge is created, maintained, or lost, in so many different ways.

During research and production I read Dal Stivens’ “A Horse of Air”, which is a supposedly fictional account of a man driven mad by his search for the Night Parrot. The poetry of of John Kinsella and Dorothy Porter, as well as Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and Sean O’Brien’s translation of Dante’s “Inferno” came along for the ride. For music I listened to Chopin’s Nocturnes because they pay homage to the night. Chopin was a fellow insomniac.

All these things somehow made their way into the film. Even static from the outside world, heard periodically when I passed through intermittent coverage, makes an appearance. So perhaps it is not surprising that my gaze (perhaps gaze is too calm a word) becomes fraught. I found myself staring at a plaque which marked a particular point in time and an obscure passing. What lay beneath these places and contemporary situations that the Night Parrot lead me to? I hope I have relayed aspects of the Night Parrot’s story that have been marginalised by the haste to lay claim, name and memorialise. And drawn some connections that may have been overlooked. By the end of filming, through the years 2013 and 2014, in all the mainland states of Australia and across Europe, there was nothing that I could not, in some way, connect to the presence or absence of that bird lost in the darkness. Into everyone’s life a Night Parrot comes in some form.

Rob Nugent
February 2016