A PARADISE LOST is the strange and curious tale of a Hawaiian finch who sued the State of Hawaii to prevent its imminent extinction, the first animal in history named lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit. The film weaves animation and archival footage to visualize the landmark environmental case “Palila v. Hawaii” told by the stuffed Palila bird who sat at the plaintiff’s desk. BBM251 is the 150-year-old male specimen used during the trial, voiced by a Native Hawaiian actor.
Now a wise Hawaiian elder, he remembers his youth living with his large clan in dense forests on the Big Island of Hawaii, killed by a visiting collector in the 1890s, made into a taxidermy specimen, and exhibited in a museum. He vividly re-enacts the trial in 1979, when eight scientists plead to eliminate introduced sheep and goats from Mauna Kea volcano to prevent the complete destruction of native forests.
A single flock of 1,300 birds subsisted in subalpine mamane trees for food, shelter and nesting. Hunters protested against game removal from the mountain because the land is zoned for public hunting. BBM251 recalls the behind the scenes strategy of his two scrappy human defenders, how they won, and key events from multiple court battles.
BBM251 narrates the second half of the documentary presenting the humans’ perspective: Palila’s attorney and the daughter of the activist who started the lawsuit, scientists and hunters involved with the case, and a young Hawaiian conservationist using indigenous knowledge to restore critical Palila habitat.
BBM251’s memories represent the paradise that was lost, humanity’s role in protecting Earth’s most vulnerable, and the interconnectedness of life.