The Metamorphosis of Birds

Catarina Vasconcelos
A metamorfose dos pássaros
Portugal 2020 / 101’
Stories from the Chestnut Woods The Trouble with Being Born

My mother was more than just a mother. She was a tree. This confession is the key to the Portuguese director’s essay, which won a FIPRESCI award at the Berlinale. Autobiographical though not completely true (after all, the rules are determined here by postmemory), the story takes viewers on a journey through the lives of three generations; in addition to the actors, Catartina Vasconcelos herself and members of her family also appear in the film. The focal point, however, is a mother-tree figure that provides roots as well as branches that one can leap from in order to fly away. This intergenerational point of connection also reconciles us with nature—with its cycle of birth and death. The aim of this form of poetic archeology is to recall not just the spirit of the deceased mother but also the careful—like brushstrokes—revelations of the universal mechanisms of change that all living things undergo: whether birds, people, trees, houses, or memories. In this film, the archaeologist’s brush is sometimes the painter’s brush, because the subtly composed static shots often bring to mind the works of masters (even still lifes). At the same time, they remind us of the dual nature of cinema, which, in desperately trying to rescue, destroys everything it captures in the frame.

Małgorzata Sadowska


Berlin IFF 2020 – FIPRESCI Prize; Taipei FF 2020 – Special Jury Prize; Vilnius IFF 2020 – Best Film New Europe-New Names; IndieLisboa International Independent FF 2020 - Audience Award, Best Director; San Sebastián IFF 2020 - Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Prize

Catarina Vasconcelos

Born in 1986, Catarina Vasconcelos is a Portuguese visual artist and director; she graduated from the Faculdade de Belas Artes in Lisbon and the Royal College of Art in London. She has worked in the fields of visual communication and visual anthropology. Her graduation project, Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out, won an award for best short film at the Cinéma du Réel festival (2014). The Metamorphosis of Birds is her feature debut.


2014 Metáfora ou a tristeza virada do avesso / Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out (kr. m.)

2020 Metamorfoza ptaków A metamorfose dos pássaros The Metamorphosis of Birds

Cast & Crew

director Catarina Vasconcelos
screenplay Catarina Vasconcelos
cinematography Paulo Menezes
editing Francisco Moreira
music Madalena Palmeirim
cast Manuel Rosa, João Móra, Ana Vasconcelos, Henrique Vasconcelos, Inês Melo Campos
producer Pedro Fernandes Duarte, Joana Gusmão, Catarina Vasconcelos
production Primeira Idade
sales Miguel Valverde/Portugal Film
language Portuguese

The Metamorphosis of Birds

Catarina Vasconcelos

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