Metamorphosis of Birds, The (2021): Catarina Vasconcelos’ Debut Film, Portugal’s Entry for the Best International Feature Film (Berlin Fest, Fipresci Award)

PORTUGAL

Portugal has chosen Catarina Vasconcelos’ debut feature The Metamorphosis of Birds as its submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

The decision was made by the Academia Portuguesa de Cinema, which noted that the docu-fiction pic dealt with a grandparents’ love story and the death of the director’s paternal grandmother, based on family memories of childhood and youth.

The film premiered at last year’s Berlin Fest where it won the Fipresci Award for best film in the experimental Encounters Section.

It has enjoyed considerable festival success, winning best film awards at Pesaro, New Horizons, Vilnius, Taipei and Dukufest and has been sold to major territories including the U.S., the U.K., China, Italy and Spain.

The Metamorphosis of Birds was produced by Joana Gusmão and Pedro Fernandes Duarte with financial support from Portugal’s Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual, Portuguese public broadcaster RTP and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The personal film revolves around family loss, as Vasconcelos explains: “My father lost his mother early and I lost mine when I was 17. In a way we were both semi-orphaned.”

It’s an intriguing documentary-memoir hybrid of metaphors, memories and magical realism, based on the director’s poignant explorations of half-remembered, half-imagined landscapes of generational grief. Thus, mothers are trees, fathers are seas and children flit between them like things with feathers.