A film by Catarina Vasconcelos
101, 2020 minutes
No. 307

An extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating documentary that has the feel of a precious heirloom, this impressionistic yet emotionally rich film finds Portuguese filmmaker Catarina Vasconcelos sifting through the memories and dreams of her ancestors. 

In prismatic images, richly shot on 16mm film, we get the sense of a family’s entire lineage, starting with her naval officer grandfather, Henrique, who married her grandmother, Beatriz, on her 21st birthday; he then spent extended periods at sea, leaving her with an expanding brood of children. This is the beginning of a generational saga, told in shards of memory and voiceover. 

The Metamorphosis of Birds achingly evokes the natural world—the changing seasons, the play of sunlight, the ever-flowing tides, and the plant and animal life—that counterbalances and nurtures human life cycles.

Winner, FIPRESCI Award for Best Film, Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection, True/False Film Festival
Official Selection, Sheffield Doc/Fest
Winner, Grand Prix and Audience Award, New Horizons Film Festival

"A bewitching doc-memoir hybrid of metaphors, memories and magical Realism. Striking imagery and lyrical language turn a family-history essay into an aching meditation on generational love and the mourning after." - Variety

"What’s impressive here is it feels like Vasconcelos is discovering her past at the same pace as we in the audience, unmasking a period when Portugal was under dictatorship that looks like a foreign country to today’s young Portuguese (Vasconcelos was born in 1986). There is also something proudly feminist about the exploration here, delving into women’s voices shut out of the public sphere at the time." - The Film Stage

"A bold, inventive family saga told through a poetic documentary essay." - Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily