Bird Island

Maya Kosa, Sérgio da Costa

IndieLisboa 2020 •

Switzerland, Documentary, 2019, 62′

After being in the festival with Antão, o invisível (2017), the Portuguese-Swiss directors make their return with this, half “zoological documentary”, half fictional portrait, that takes place in a Geneve’s bird sanctuary. The rectangular framing, the young Antonin’s voice over hovering above that “sacred place”, but also a ecological argument and a detailed sense of observation, all is part of this magical island that captivates our gaze.  

The young and intriguing duo of directors formed by Maya Kosa and Sergio Da Costa delivers with L’Île aux oiseaux a second feature film of an almost unreal poetry although intimately linked to reality, back and forth between fiction and reality where one springs from the other as if by magic – which has always been at the heart of the work of the Swiss duo (of Polish and Portuguese origin respectively). Like the injured birds of prey, Paul, Antonin and the other employees of the Genthod center must relearn how to hunt in order to survive in a society which “allows no mistake”. “What is that smell?” Asks the young man, a newcomer to the center and a hero of the film, when he first enters where the little cages are with mice; “It’s shit, you’re going to get used to it,” replied Paul, who works there for a long time. A raw and simple opening sentence that sums up the film fairly well: grand in its terrible and contradictory simplicity. The scarcity of dialogues renders its content even more powerful. The words are carefully chosen, between wonder and precision, in a way that recalls Rohmer’s dialogues but with the simplicity and offbeat comic tone found on a Kaurismäki film. Like as if the many sequence shots which punctuate the film speak with images when the words are silent. (Mickael Gaspar)